Asthma Chores: Cleaning Your Supplies
Confession: I am terrible for cleaning all my asthma stuff. I’m so terrible at it that I’ve made this confession on the internet before, and that my friends and I have had discussions about it, and about how they are basically equally terrible for remembering to clean their asthma supplies. When I was first diagnosed, I followed the “rules"—I even cleaned my inhalers! I cleaned my spacer weekly! I sterilized my nebulizers!
And here’s the deal… IT’S NOT HARD. It’s NOT even time consuming. It’s just… I have to remember.
Pop out the canister, rinse the mouthpiece especially with mild soap and water. Dry or let air dry (I go for air dry. Or I use disinfecting wipes.)
Protip: I used to play clarinet, and I at one point used woodwind mouthpiece cleaner spray to clean my inhalers. It’s about $5-7 for a small bottle at music stores. Just don’t, you know, inhale it, and make sure it dries well!
(I got a new spacer yesterday, so here’s what a NEW ONE still in the package looks like compared to my current two.)
Here’s my method:
1. Find a plastic container or a bowl or something with enough room to hold your spacer and swoosh it around a bit.
2. Fill said vessel with soapy water. I just use dish soap (in my case, a super mild one).
3. Disassemble your spacer into as many parts as it goes.
4. Submerge pieces in the soapy water, swoosh it around (technical terms), and let it sit for 10-15 minutes (or, if you’re me, an hour because I forget about it). (I also don't know if 10-15 minutes is necessary but that's what I've done forever).
I don’t usually wash two spacers at the same time, but today about 5 minutes later I realized I have a new spacer, so I could wash both. So I threw that one in too. If they had brains they’d probably be mindblown because I cannot tell you the last time my spacers were cleaned.
5. Remove from water, rinse if desired (I usually rinse cold, not sure why!), and put on a clean towel or whatnot to air dry (I usually just use a face cloth or something—this one below with a duck is from IKEA). Air drying is important apparently—though these are “anti-static”, I’d rather not build up any static cling in my spacers… I’d rather the meds get in my lungs rather than stuck in Staticland.
Also, you may wish to give the mouthpieces a little extra attention.
6. Reassemble when dry.
7. Set a reminder on your phone or write one in your planner/calendar to clean your spacer weekly. (If you ignore it, you’ll probably be joining me. I’m just being realistic here!). You’ll notice below I’m being realistic here, and aiming for every two weeks… ;)
While you can boil most nebs (I’d check your packaging), I go the dishwasher route, personally.
1. Disassemble your nebulizer.
2. I use a baby bottle basket thing for the dishwasher on the top rack. (If you have built in basket parts of your dishwasher, you can probably just put them in there if it closes securely.)
3. Hit your preferred setting, walk away joyfully, and think back to ensure you've put the detergent in. (That's the order I thought about this in, anyways!)
4. Come back in a while or a day and take your shiny clean nebulizer out of the basket. Or, if you're me, find it in there like a year later and swap it for the neb that's been traveling with me for six months. Let air dry, some bubbles in grooves might need a bit of help.
5. Reassemble and you're good to go. (See step 8 for spacers! ;).)
Cleaning peak flow meters
If you use a manual meter, you can swish it in soapy water, rinse and let air dry (like the spacer method). Sometimes I've found, if dirty, peak flow meters can give weird readings.
For the digital ones, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Sometimes I just wipe down the mouthpiece when it gets gunky (my digital meter has a replaceable mouthpiece, whereas my manual one doesn't).
How often do you clean your asthma supplies? (Never is an answer!) Which methods do you use? Let me know in the comments!
Have you experienced a collapsed lung?