Using an inhaler seems simple, but most patients do not use it the right way. When you use your inhaler the wrong way, less medicine gets to your lungs. (Your doctor may give you other types of inhalers.)

For the next 2 weeks, read these steps aloud as you do them or ask someone to read them to you. Ask your doctor or nurse to check how well you are using your inhaler.

Use your inhaler in one of the three ways pictured at right (A or B are best, but C can be used if you have trouble with A and B).

Steps for Using Your InhalerGetting ready

1. Take off the cap and shake the inhaler.

2. Breathe out all the way.

3. Hold your inhaler the way your doctor said (see pictures at right).

Breathe in slowly

4. As you start breathing in slowly through your mouth, press down on the inhaler one time. (If you use a holding chamber, first press down on the inhaler. Within 5 seconds, begin to breathe in slowly.)

5. Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can.

Hold your breath

6. Hold your breath as you count to 10 slowly, if you can.

7. For inhaled quick-relief medicine (beta2-agonists), wait about 1 minute between puffs. There is no need to wait between puffs for other medicines.

Clean Your Inhaler as Needed

Look at the hole where the medicine sprays out from your inhaler. If you see "powder" in or around the hole, clean the inhaler. Remove the metal canister from the L-shaped plastic mouthpiece. Rinse only the mouthpiece and cap in warm water. Let them dry overnight. In the morning, put the canister back inside. Put the cap on.

Know When To Replace Your Inhaler

For medicines you take each day (an example):

Say your new canister has 200 puffs (number of puffs is listed on canister) and you are told to take 8 puffs per day. 200 puffs in canister divided by 8 puffs per day means that this canister will last 25 days. If you started using this inhaler on May 1, replace it on or before May 25. You can write the date on your canister.

For quick-relief medicine, take as needed and count each puff. Do not put your canister in water to see if it is empty. This does not work.

Source: National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health