I accidentally ran my inhaler through the washing machine in a pair of pants. It doesn't seem like any water got inside of the canister, and it still dispenses the medication like normal without any blockage or other problems, but I'm not sure if it would be safe to continue to use. Should I continue to use or get a replacement?
Assuming you have a generic albuterol inhaler, it is probably okay to use it. If it is almost empty see about getting another one.
The generic albuterol metered dose inhalers (not HFA types) may get wet without losing their ability to actuate (spray) properly. Years ago we instructed patients to float the albuterol canisters (again, not HFA types) in a large bowl of water in order to assess how much medicine was left in the canister.
The newer HFA containing inhalers (canisters) should never get wet. The mouthpiece should be periodically washed, but not the canister insert. They more easily clog up because of the different characteristics of the spray (compared to CFC containing albuterol). Learn more about CFCs vs. HFAs by clicking on the hyperlink.
I recommend rinsing the mouthpiece under warm water for about 30 seconds (through each end) before taking more inhalations. Let the mouthpiece air dry over night.
Re-prime the inhaler with 3 blasts through the mouthpiece again the following morning.
Another alternative would be to have the inhaler inspected from the pharmacy it was purchased (by the pharmacist).
Remember, if you have an HFA inhaler (ProAir, Ventolin, Xopenex, or Proventil HFA) do not use it. Get another one or have it inspected by your doctor's office or pharmacist.
(I called Illinois Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to confirm my thoughts regarding safety.)
J. Thompson, MD