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Tips for improving inhaler therapy.

Clinical studies indicate that up to half of the people who use metered-dose inhalers in this country do not use them correctly each time. Many of the estimated 24 million Americans with asthma and chronic bronchitis depend on these products to deliver a premeasured puff of medication directly to their lungs.

Timing and coordination mean everything when using these products. Doctors surveyed last year by a Gallup Poll said their patients expect the "ideal" inhaler to be (1) convenient and easy to use; (2) "less technique-dependent" than ordinary metered-dose inhalers; and (3) able to provide "constant medication delivery every time."

So how can you determine whether you're using your product correctly? How many puffs are you supposed to take each time? When do you begin breathing in? In what manner are you supposed to breathe? How long should you hold your breath? Where do you place the mouthpiece?

Number of puffs. If you're taking more medication than your doctor has prescribed, either your condition has worsened or you need to relearn proper inhaler technique. You may find yourself taking more puffs than originally prescribed if your technique isn't right.

Timing. Should you begin breathing in just before you push down on the canister or just after? Should you do it while you push down? The recommended method is to press down on the inhaler to release medication as you start to breathe in slowly.

Type of inhalation. Should you breathe in steadily and slowly or take a quick gasp? Should you just take a normal breath? Most respiratory specialists advocate breathing in with slow, steady force.

Breath holding. Most inhaler users are told to hold their breath for 10 seconds to allow the medicine to reach deeply into the lungs.

Mouthpiece location. Medical opinion varies regarding the best location for the mouthpiece; the best method is generally the one your doctor prescribes for you. The most commonly recommended methods include: (1) Placing it directly in your mouth with lips closed firmly around it; (2) positioning the inhaler one to two inches away from your open mouth; or (3) placing the mouthpiece in a spacer (a tube that connects the inhaler to your mouth). Doctors prescribe spacers to hold the medication in a chamber until you breathe in.

Finally, do you feel the spray land on your tongue or see it in the air? These signs may indicate the medication has not reached your lungs, where it's needed. Also, if used properly, your inhaler does not have to be test-fired into the air to see whether any spray comes out.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:429
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