Two inhalers spraying medicine

How Long Do I Wait Between Inhaler Uses?

When you are having symptoms of an asthma attack, focusing on proper inhaler technique might not be the first thing you think about. What does this mean? It may mean adjusting your routine to incorporate priming, waiting longer between inhaler uses, identifying which type of inhaler to use first, or something else.

Using your inhaler accurately could help reduce the number of asthma attacks you experience. It may also keep you away from the emergency room to treat attacks.1

The goal of using an inhaler is to get the full amount of medicine into the lungs every time you use it. This only happens if you routinely use it correctly. When inhalers are not used properly, reports show close to a 60 percent decrease in the amount of medicine that reaches the lungs.2

Regularly practicing these tips can help reduce errors when using an inhaler to treat your asthma.

What is inhaler priming?

Priming is spraying “empty” puffs into the air before you inhale your first puff. When you prime your inhaler, no medicine is wasted. In fact, if you do not prime your inhaler, you may not get a full dose of medicine, even though you feel a burst of air in your mouth.3

Priming allows the ingredients to be mixed together well so that when you inhale your first puff, the active drug successfully makes it into your lungs. This is especially important for devices that are not used daily.4,5

How often should I prime my inhaler?

You should prime your inhaler if it is brand new or if you have not used it in several days. Some inhalers also require priming if they have been dropped.6

Each inhaler that requires priming has specific instructions on how often to do it. Soft-mist inhalers (SMI), for example, should be primed if they have not been used for 3 days or more. Dry powder inhalers (DPI), however, should not be primed since full doses are loaded once you hear it click.7-9

Look at the information that is included with your specific inhaler to prime it correctly each time.

How long after priming should you wait to use your inhaler?

Once your inhaler has been properly primed, you are able to use it.

As an example, say you have a brand-new device, and your instructions are to prime it 4 times. If the counter shows 124 puffs before you prime it, then you should spray it into the air, away from your face, 4 times. Make sure you shake your inhaler for at least 5 seconds before each spray. Your first puff should be inhaled when your device shows 120 puffs.6

If you have to take more than 1 puff for your full dose, you do not need to prime it again.

How long should you wait to repeat a dose of your inhaler?

Knowing how long to wait between inhaler doses depends on the type of device and the amount of medicine required to manage your symptoms. You should always ask your doctor how often to repeat your medicine.

Controller inhalers are available as metered-dose (MDI), soft-mist, and dry-powder formulations. These medicines are used to prevent asthma complications. It is generally recommended to inhale 1 puff of your controller inhaler twice daily (12 hours apart) at the same time every day. Although there are multiple dosing variations, controller inhalers are not usually taken more than twice a day.6

Rescue inhalers are used to quickly restore your breathing during a flare-up. They are also given to prevent exercise-induced asthma. These inhalers are most commonly available as an MDI. Doses are usually repeated every 4 to 6 hours as needed. It is important to wait at least 60 seconds between puffs for the best results.10

Nebulizer machines allow you to breathe in your medicine through a face mask or a handheld tube. These machines are found in hospital settings, though many people also use them at home. Nebulizer treatments are usually repeated 3 to 4 times daily as directed.11

What type of inhaler/asthma medication should be used first?

If your treatment plan calls for you to use both a rescue inhaler and a controller inhaler in order, studies show you should use the rescue inhaler first. Next, you should hold your breath for about 10 seconds to allow enough time for the medicine to work and then use your controller inhaler.6,10,12

If you have more questions about your inhaler, talk to your doctor.

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