Do you, like most asthmatics, use an inhaler? Most of us take a daily or twice daily preventive medicine, such as an inhaled steroid, through an inhaler device, as well as a quick-relief, or rescue medicine.
Inhaled medicines, especially steroids, are the most effective asthma medication known. But, it’s important to note that if you don’t use your inhaler correctly, you may have difficult achieving effective asthma control.
If you don’t use the correct inhaler technique yes, there IS a specific way in which you must use it then you are likely to get too much or too little medication in the process. Either way, it can be harmful to your health.
Study findings announced last week found that 1 out of every 3 people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease do not use their inhalers correctly. So, it’s pretty likely you fall into that group.
This study looked at patients who were using a kind of inhaler called a dry powder inhaler. Medicines like Serevent and Advair are administered in a dry powder inhaler. Another type of inhaler is a metered dose inhaler, or MDI for short, which dispenses medicine in a fine mist. MDIs can also be used incorrectly.
The study compared 224 patients using 1 of 4 different dry powder inhalers. Patients had to demonstrate how they used their inhaler and talk about what specific directions they’d been given on using it.
Researchers found that 32% of the patients made at least 1 mistake. What’s even more interesting is that their skill at using the inhaler was directly related to whether they’d ever received instruction in inhaler technique. When they had, only 23% made a mistake. On the other hand, in those who’d received no instruction, 52% made a mistake.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had anyone teach me how to use my inhalers over the years. Anything I know came from studying the package insert or doing my own research online.
These study results reinforce the need for two things:
- Patients need to learn proper inhaler technique if they want to get the most out of their asthma medicines.
- Healthcare professionals need to teach their asthma patients proper inhaler technique.
If you’re not getting the results you expected or wanted from your asthma medicine, you might ask your doctor to evaluate your inhaler technique
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.