Inhalers are a mainstay of treatment for respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the drugs themselves are unable to work effectively if the inhaler technique used to administer them isn’t correct.

Despite their widespread use, many people have never been taught how to use their inhalers properly and continue to make mistakes that influence how much of the drug gets into their lungs. This blog hopes to help readers get the most out of their inhalers.

Understanding Inhalers

Types of Inhalers

There are three main types of inhalers:

1. Metered-Dose Inhalers (MDIs): These inhalers release a measured medication dosage in a fine mist form pressurized by a propellant, which forces the medication out of the canister.

2. Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs): These inhalers formulate the medication as a powder. When you inhale the medication, the powder is forced into your lungs.

3. Soft Mist Inhalers (SMIs): These devices atomize a medication into a mist that is easier to inhale and less dependent on the forceful inhalation required for a DPI.

Each type of device has a different mechanism, and everyone should refer to the directions for their specific device.

Common Mistakes in Inhaler Use

Incorrect inhaler use is a widespread issue. Some common mistakes include:

Not shaking the inhaler (for MDIs) can lead to an incorrect dose.

Poor inhalation technique, such as inhaling too fast or too slowly, fails to draw up medication deep into the lungs.

Not holding the breath long enough after inhalation can reduce medication absorption.

Failure to prime the inhaler ensures the device is in the position to provide the correct dose.

Not cleaning the inhaler properly can lead to blockages and reduced effectiveness.

Addressing these mistakes can significantly improve the effectiveness of the medication delivered by inhalers.

Step-by-Step Guide to Using an MDI

Using a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) correctly involves several steps:


1. Shake the inhaler: This ensures the medication is properly mixed.

2. Remove the cap and check the mouthpiece for any obstructions.

Priming the Inhaler

Start with priming, especially if the inhaler is new or has not been used in a while. According to the manufacturer’s directions, spray a few test doses into the air.

Proper Inhalation Technique

1. Exhale fully before bringing the inhaler to your mouth.

2. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth, sealing your lips tightly around it.

3. Breathe in very slowly and deeply while pressing down to expel the medicine.

4. Then breathe out while pressing down so that the medicine goes deep into your lungs.

Post-Inhalation Steps

1. Breathe in the medicine for 10 seconds so that it can settle in your lungs.

2. Exhale slowly.


1. Clean the inhaler regularly to prevent medication buildup and blockages.

2. Store the inhaler correctly to ensure it remains effective.

Breathing better because of correct breathing techniques

Step-by-Step Guide to Using a DPI

Using a dry powder inhaler (DPI) correctly involves different steps:


1. Load the dose as instructed by your inhaler’s specific guidelines.

Proper Inhalation Technique

1. Exhale fully away from the inhaler to avoid blowing moisture into the device.

2. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and seal your lips around it.

3. Inhale quickly and deeply to draw the medication into your lungs.

Post-Inhalation Steps

1. Hold your breath for 10 seconds.

2. Exhale slowly

Little girl using inhaler

Step-by-Step Guide to Using an SMI


1. Insert the cartridge if it is a new inhaler.

Priming the Inhaler

Follow the directions on the packet to ‘prime’ the inhaler by squirting out a few doses into the air.

Proper Inhalation Technique

1. Exhale fully

2. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth** and seal your lips around it.

3. Inhale slowly and deeply while pressing the dose-release button.

Post-Inhalation Steps

1. Hold your breath for 10 seconds

2. Exhale slowly

Tips for Maximizing Medication Effectiveness

Spacer (for MDIs): More medicine will reach the lungs, and less will enter the mouth and throat.

Count doses: Keeping an eye on how many doses you’ve taken will ensure you don’t run out without noticing.

Regular technique review with a healthcare professional may help to correct any faulty methods.

Assess symptoms and modify technique as needed. If symptoms continue, seek input from your primary care provider on your technique.

Always keep it well maintained and clean: The inhaler needs to be kept in good working order and cleaned to deliver medication to the lungs as intended.


Feeling like you are breathing better is something you can control. Your healthcare professional will provide the medication in the specific dose that you need and recommend the best technique for you. All you have to do is try to learn the correct steps and avoid common mistakes.

Regular practice, review, and maintenance of your inhaler are also important. Make sure you know how to care for and keep your device working. Once you have mastered your inhaler technique, you can concentrate on following your medication instructions. You may be surprised at how quickly improved breathing and overall wellness can become a reality!

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