Asthma and chronic bronchitis are often treated using inhaled medications. This method delivers medicine directly to the lungs which means the medications can work faster than medications taken by mouth.
Many inhalers consist of a metal canister containing medicine and propellant. When the canister is shaken, the propellant mixes with the medicine and turns it into a fine mist which can be sprayed out of the mouthpiece of the inhaler.
One of the problems with this style inhaler is the need to get the timing just right between spraying the medication and inhaling. If the timing is not right, the medication may be wasted or you may not get the full prescribed dose.
A newer inhaler, known as a diskus dry powder inhaler (DPI), avoids some of the timing problems and may be easier for some patients to use correctly.
Diskus inhalers contain medication in the form of a powder. A measured dose is loaded into the inhaler chamber where it can be sucked into the lungs without timing the breath and the spray. Some medications available in a diskus inhaler include Advair, Flovent, and Serevent.
Follow these basic instructions to use a diskus inhaler. Please note that these instructions assume you are right-handed. Reverse the hands if your left hand is dominant.
1. Hold onto the large part of the diskus with your left hand where the name of the medication is located.
2. Locate the dose counter window and place your right the thumb in the notch next to the window.
3. Use your right thumb to slide the diskus open until the mouthpiece is revealed and you hear a click.
4. Place your right thumb on the lever beside the mouthpiece. Push the lever away from the mouthpiece until you hear a click. The dose counter should have gone down by one when you did this.
5. Turn your head away and exhale fully.
6. Be careful not to shake or tip the diskus as you place your mouth over the mouthpiece and seal your lips around it.
7. Inhale deeply through your mouth and suck the medication powder into your lungs
8. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds, if you are able to do so.
9. To close the diskus, use your thumb to slide the thumb grip back toward you, hiding the mouthpiece. This will reset the diskus so it will be ready the next time you need it.
Be sure to read the instructions included with your DPI inhaler for specific information. Some DPI inhalers must be discarded within a given length of time after they are opened. Be sure to watch the dose counter on the DPI so you can refill the prescription before you run out.
Reviewed July 19, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle