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Breathing Problems: Using a Dry Powder Inhaler

Introduction

People who have asthma or other lung diseases that make it hard to breathe may use an inhaler to get the medicine they need into their lungs. Inhaled medicine works faster than the same medicine in a pill. An inhaler also lets you take less medicine than you would if you took it as a pill.

You may have used a metered-dose inhaler in the past. But a dry powder inhaler is different. These instructions are for using a dry powder inhaler.

  • A dry powder inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly.
  • A dry powder inhaler is breath-activated. This means that when you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler releases the medicine into your lungs.
  • Dry powder inhalers come in different shapes and sizes. Some come with the medicine already loaded inside the inhaler. With other inhalers, you have to put in the medicine right before you use it. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how to load the medicine into your inhaler.
 

A dry powder inhaler delivers medicine in the form of a fine powder. It lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly. Dry powder inhalers are breath-activated. This means that when you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler releases the medicine into your lungs.

Dry powder inhalers come in different shapes and sizes. The way you put (load) medicine in the inhaler depends on the type of inhaler you have. Some dry powder inhalers come with medicine already loaded inside. With other dry powder inhalers, you put the medicine in the inhaler each time before you use it. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how to load the medicine into your inhaler.

Test Your Knowledge

When you use a dry powder inhaler, the medicine is released into your lungs right away.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A dry powder inhaler is breath-activated. This means that when you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler releases the medicine into your lungs.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A dry powder inhaler is breath-activated. This means that when you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler releases the medicine into your lungs.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

A dry powder inhaler:

  • Is simple to use. Because the dry powder inhaler is breath-activated, you don't have to pump the inhaler and breathe at the same time like you do with other inhalers. The medicine stays in the inhaler until you breathe in.
  • Gets the right amount of medicine into your lungs right away.
  • Can help keep your symptoms under control and minimize long-term damage to your lungs.
  • May prevent or reduce side effects compared to taking the same medicine in pill form.

Test Your Knowledge

It is hard to use a dry powder inhaler.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    A dry powder inhaler is simple to use. It is breath-activated, so you don't have to pump the inhaler and breathe at the same time like you do with other inhalers.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    A dry powder inhaler is simple to use. It is breath-activated, so you don't have to pump the inhaler and breathe at the same time like you do with other inhalers.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

Things to know before you start

  • Talk with your doctor, respiratory therapist, or pharmacist to make sure that you are using your inhaler the right way. It may help to practice in front of a mirror. Use the inhaler exactly as prescribed.
  • Keep your inhaler in a cool, dry place. Do not store your inhaler in the bathroom. Moisture in the air can cause the dry powder to clump together and clog the inhaler.
  • Keep track of how much medicine is in the inhaler. Some dry powder inhalers have dose counters that show how many doses are left in the inhaler. If your inhaler does not have a dose counter, your doctor or pharmacist can teach you how to keep track of how much medicine is left.
  • Follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions for cleaning your inhaler. Some powder may build up on the inhaler, but you don't need to clean it every day.

Using a dry powder inhaler

Follow these steps for using a dry powder inhaler:

  1. Check that you have the correct medicine. If you use several inhalers, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
  2. Remove the inhaler cap.
  3. Load a dose of medicine into the inhaler as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.
  4. Tilt your head back a little, and breathe out slowly and completely. Hold the inhaler away from your mouth when you breathe out. Do not breathe out into the inhaler. This can blow some of the powder out of the inhaler. Also, the moisture in your breath can cause the dry powder to clump together and clog the inhaler.
  5. Place the inhaler in your mouth, and close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
  6. Inhale quickly and deeply through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. This pulls the powder from the inhaler into your lungs. After you have inhaled the powder, take the inhaler out of your mouth.
  7. Hold your breath for 10 seconds. This will let the medicine settle in your lungs. Then slowly breathe out through pursed lips. Repeat steps 1 through 7 if you need to take a second dose.
  8. If you are using an inhaler with corticosteroid medicine, gargle and rinse out your mouth with water after you use the inhaler. Do not swallow the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream. This may make you more likely to have side effects from the medicine.

Test Your Knowledge

When you use a dry powder inhaler, you inhale quickly and deeply.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    When you use a dry powder inhaler, you inhale quickly and deeply through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. This pulls the powder from the inhaler into your lungs.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    When you use a dry powder inhaler, you inhale quickly and deeply through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. This pulls the powder from the inhaler into your lungs.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start using a dry powder inhaler.

Talk with your doctor

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes where you have questions.

If you need information on using a metered-dose inhaler, see the topic:

Click here to view an Actionset. Breathing Problems: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
Last Revised February 19, 2013

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