Back to Asthma Home

Using Your Inhaler

Remember, an inhaler only works if you use it correctly!

Tips for Effectively Using Your Inhaler

  • Make sure there is medication in your inhaler and it’s not empty. Many inhalers have a dose counter, which should tell you how many doses are left.
  • Read the instructions that come with your inhaler and ask your pharmacist or provider about any questions you may have.
  • Make sure you never run out of your maintenance inhalers by using a mail order pharmacy to get a 3 month supply at a time. Enroll online or call Cornerstone Health Solutions at 1-844-319-7588 for more information.
  • Keep track of how often you use your rescue inhaler and how many puffs you take so you can tell your provider at every visit.

Maintenance Inhalers

  • Contain long-term control medications that are important to keep your asthma well-controlled
  • Need to be used every day to prevent asthma symptoms
  • Most maintenance inhalers are not meant to relieve symptoms immediately (like a rescue inhaler) but a few can be used for rescue (see box below)
  • Treat the airway inflammation that causes asthma symptoms, which can reduce or eliminate asthma flares
  • It’s important to use your maintenance inhaler everyday as directed by your provider to keep your asthma controlled
  • Maintenance Inhaler Examples: Arnuity Ellipta, Flovent, Advair, Breo Ellipta, Qvar

Rescue Inhalers

  • Contain fast-acting medication to quickly open your airways and make breathing easier
  • Used when your asthma symptoms, like shortness of breath or wheezing, flare up
  • Work almost immediately to start relieving symptoms
  • Knowing when you need to use a rescue inhaler can help prevent an asthma attack
  • If you need to use your rescue inhaler multiple times per day, talk to your doctor
  • Albuterol used to be the rescue inhaler of choice, but now some combination inhalers are recommended for rescue treatment and are sometimes preferred over albuterol

Examples: Advair Diskus, Arnuity Ellipta, Breo Ellipta, Flovent Diskus

  • For some DPIs, you will need to load a capsule into the device first. (These capsules are NOT meant to be swallowed and should only be used in the device.) Other devices already come loaded with capsules.
  • DPIs are “breath-activated”, which means that the medication is released when you breath in.
  • With the mouthpiece between your front teeth and your lips sealed around it, breathe in through your mouth quickly and deeply for 2-3 seconds.
  • Remove the inhaler from your mouth and hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds before you exhale.
  • To clean your DPI, wipe the mouthpiece with a dry cloth.

Examples: Advair HFA, albuterol HFA, Alvesco, Flovent HFA, Qvar

  • The first time you use an MDI (each refill), you must prime your inhaler. See you package insert forspecific instructions.
  • Before using, shake the MDI vigorously for 5 seconds
  • You must take a slow, deep breathe in through your mouth as you press down on the canister to release the medication, then hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds before you exhale.
  • Make sure to clean your MDI on a regular basis. See the instructions that come with your inhaler for cleaning recommendations.
  • If you have trouble inhaling the medication when you press down on the canister, ask your doctor about using a spacer.

Examples: Combivent Respimat, Spiriva Respimat

  • Before use, you must insert the cartridge into the device. Do not shake the inhaler.
  • Hold the SMI horizontally with the mouthpiece in your mouth and take a slow deep breathe in through your mouth as you press the button on the side of the SMI.
  • When your lungs are full, hold your breath for 10 seconds, then remove the inhaler from your mouth and slowly breathe out.
  • Clean your SMI once a week by wiping the inside and outside of the mouthpiece with a damp cloth.

*For specific step-by-step instructions, see the package insert that came with your medication.

How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler:


We're Here to Help

Contact Us