Have an inhaler? Make sure you use it correctly
Respiratory Over 80% of people – including healthcare professionals – use poor inhaler technique. Here's how to do it right.
Inhalers are often prescribed for people with respiratory disorders such, as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
However, Monica Fletcher, Chief Executive of Education for Health and Chair of the UK Inhaler Group, says: “Studies have shown that as many as 80-90 per cent of inhaler users do not use them correctly. This includes healthcare professionals who may be demonstrating their use to patients.
“This is critical because misuse may mean that patients do not receive the correct dose of their medication – or perhaps none, which can affect their health and even increase the risk of death”.
It also means that medicines are wasted, increasing NHS costs unnecessarily.
"80-90 per cent of inhaler users do not use them correctly."
“The UK Inhaler Group aims to improve the education about correct inhaler technique among patients and health professionals,” says Fletcher.
The situation is complicated by the increasing number of devices available. “It's good that there is a wide choice but this also means that doctors, nurses and pharmacists have difficulty keeping up to date with new devices and how to use them properly,” Fletcher says.
It is important to note that there are two broad types of inhalers. Pressurised, metered dose inhalers (pMDI), which deliver medicines in a spray form, while dry powder inhalers contain powdered medicine in a reservoir or a capsule inside the device.
So what is the right inhaler technique?
First, before using any inhaler, empty the lungs as much as you can, so that when you inhale, you 'suck down' the medication as far as possible.
Fletcher says: “Breathing out fully can be hard for some people, particularly those with COPD, so there are additional devices called ‘spacers’ that can be prescribed, which means this is not necessary
For many inhalers it is important to get the hand/breath coordination right, so you breathe in as you press the inhaler.
When inhaling from pMDI’s, the breath should be slow and steady. With dry powder inhalers, the inhalation should be quick and deep.
Once you have inhaled, hold your breath for a little while for the medicine to stay in the lungs
“Remember, inhalers deliver effective medicines so it is important to take inhaler technique seriously.”
Fletcher says: “Even assuming patients have been taught effective inhaler technique it is easy for users to become complacent. So you should have your inhaler technique checked regularly.”
There are video demonstrations of correct use of some inhalers at www.asthma.org.uk and in early 2018 these will be updated with a complete range of currently available devices.