First Time User? Enroll now.
Get Care Now
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, treatment, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Breathing Problems: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler
A metered-dose inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly. Inhaled medicine works faster than the same medicine in a pill. An inhaler allows you to take less medicine than you would need if you took it as a pill.
"Metered-dose" means that the inhaler gives a measured amount of medicine each time you use it. A metered-dose inhaler gives medicine in the form of a liquid mist.
Your doctor may want you to use a spacer with your inhaler. A spacer is a chamber that you attach to the inhaler. The chamber holds the medicine before you inhale it. That way, you can inhale the medicine in as many breaths as you need. Doctors recommend using a spacer with most metered-dose inhalers. This is even more important when using corticosteroid medicines.
To get started:
Shake the inhaler and remove the inhaler cap. Check the inhaler instructions to see if you need to prime your inhaler before you use it. If it needs priming, follow the instructions on how to do it.
Place the mouthpiece of the inhaler into the end of spacer.
Remove the cap from the end of the spacer.
Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom.
Stand or sit up straight. Tilt your head back slightly and breathe out slowly and completely.
Place the spacer's mouthpiece in your mouth.
Press down on the inhaler to spray one puff of medicine into the spacer and then start breathing in slowly and deeply. (Press first, then breathe in.)
Hold your breath for 10 seconds, to give the medicine time to settle in your lungs. Then breathe out slowly.
If you need to take a second dose, wait 30 to 60 seconds to allow the inhaler valve to refill.
Shake the inhaler as directed, and remove the cap. Check the inhaler instructions to see if you need to prime your inhaler before you use it. If it needs priming, follow the instructions for how to do it.
Stand or sit up straight. Tilt your head back slightly, and breathe out slowly and completely.
There are two ways to position the inhaler when using it without a spacer. You can place the inhaler in your mouth. Or you can hold the inhaler 1 in. (2.5 cm) to 2 in. (5.0 cm) in front of your open mouth, without closing your lips over it. This method may be better for getting the medicine into your lungs. But some people may find this too hard to do.
Start to breathe in slowly, evenly, and deeply; press down on the inhaler one time (start to breathe in, then press); and continue to breathe in slowly.
Hold your breath for 10 seconds. This will let the medicine settle in your lungs. Then breathe out slowly.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.