June 18, 2024
Respiratory Inhalers

Lifesavers In A Canister: Understanding The Impact Of Respiratory Inhalers


Respiratory inhalers have become a very common treatment option for lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There are different types of inhalers that deliver medication in various ways to treat symptoms and control the underlying conditions. This article provides an overview of the major types of inhalers available, how they work, proper use techniques, and other important considerations.

Types of Respiratory Inhalers

There are four main types of respiratory inhalers prescribed for lung diseases: metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), dry powder inhalers (DPIs), soft mist inhalers (SMIs), and nebulizers. Each works a bit differently in delivering medication to the lungs.

Metered-Dose Inhalers

MDIs are small canister inhalers that utilize propellants to blast the medication into your mouth in a fine mist. They require synchronization of actuation and inhalation to work properly. Common MDI medications include albuterol (ProAir or Proventil HFA) and fluticasone/salmeterol (Advair HFA).

Some key tips for using an MDI include shaking the inhaler first, holding it upright, placing the mouthpiece between teeth without covering vent holes, pressing down firmly as you breathe in slowly and deeply. Spacers can help coordinate the steps and maximize medication delivery to the lungs.

Dry Powder Inhalers

DPIs contain medication in powder Respiratory Inhalers  form that is inhaled without using propellants. Common types are single-dose (such as Flovent Diskus or Asmanex Twisthaler) and multiple-dose (like Symbicort or Dulera) inhalers. When actuated, the powder rises out of the device and into your mouth to be breathed in.

Proper DPI technique requires a fast, deep breath in through the mouth. Many people find single-breath flow rates easier than multi-dose inhalers. Caps and covers should stay on until use to keep powder dry. Make sure to exhale fully out before each inhalation.

Soft Mist Inhalers

SMIs are a newer type of device that uses mechanical energy instead of propellants and releases medication as a fine mist for easy inhalation. Currently, the only SMI on the market contains Arnuity Ellipta, a maintenance therapy for asthma.

To use an SMI, you simply open the package and inhale. No breath coordination is required as the medication is self-contained and automatically released for inhalation. SMIs may provide an easier option over other inhalers for some.


Nebulizers are larger inhalation devices that use oxygen or compressed air to turn liquid medications into a mist. They are not as portable as the above inhalers but can deliver deeper lung penetration of medications for severe cases. Nebulizers are often used for COPD or acute asthma exacerbations in hospital settings.

At-home nebulizer treatments typically take 5-15 minutes and require using a mouthpiece, mask, or holding the mouth over the nebulizer cup. Proper cleaning and maintenance is important with these machines. Nebulized medications include albuterol, combivent, atrovent and corticosteroids like budesonide.

Mastering Inhaler Techniques

No matter the type of inhaler, it is crucial to use proper breathing techniques in order to ensure medication makes it to the target airways in your lungs. Even minor deviations can reduce effectiveness. Here are some additional best practice tips:

– Stand or sit up straight during use and rinse mouth after MDIs to reduce risk of oral thrush.

– Do not spray an MDI through a spacer near the face to prevent eye irritation or rinse the spacer weekly.

– Clean DPI mouthpieces regularly using wipes or running under water.

– Replace inhalers when the number of actuations/doses have been used or sooner if noticing difficulties with product consistency or flow.

– Consider using a companion digital app that provides animation and guidance for best technique.

– Ask your pharmacist or doctor office to demonstrate techniques to ensure proper use and maximize medication efficacy.

In summary, respiratory inhalers offer convenient options for delivering quick-acting relief and long-term control of symptoms from asthma, COPD and other lung diseases. Understanding the different device types, proper usage steps, and best practices can help people get the most benefit from their inhaler therapy. Consulting with healthcare providers is important for ongoing support and management. With consistent use of inhalers as prescribed, lung conditions can often be well-managed.