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Using a Dry Powder Inhaler: Care Instructions

Dry powder inhaler


A dry powder inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly. Inhaled medicine works faster than the same medicine in a pill. An inhaler lets you take less medicine than you would need if you took it as a pill.

A dry powder inhaler delivers medicine in the form of a fine powder. Dry powder inhalers are activated by breathing. When you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler puts medicine into your lungs.

Dry powder inhalers come in different shapes and sizes. For some, you need to add the medicine to the inhaler each time you use it. Some come with a supply of medicine already in them. For these, you'll need to "load" each dose of medicine each time you use it. How you load a dose depends on the type of inhaler you have.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

To get started

  • Talk with your doctor, respiratory therapist, or pharmacist to be sure you are using your inhaler the right way. It might help if you practice using it in front of a mirror. Use the inhaler exactly as prescribed.
  • Check that you have the correct medicine. If you use several inhalers, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
  • Keep your inhaler in a cool, dry place. Do not store your inhaler in the bathroom. Moisture in the air can cause the dry powder to clump together. This can clog the inhaler.
  • Keep track of how much medicine is in the inhaler. Some dry powder inhalers have dose counters that show how many doses are left. If your inhaler does not have a dose counter, your doctor or pharmacist can teach you how to keep track of how much medicine is left.
  • If you are using a steroid medicine in the inhaler, gargle and rinse out your mouth with water after use. Do not swallow the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream. This may make it more likely that you will have side effects.
  • Some powder may build up on the inhaler. You do not need to clean the inhaler every day. Follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions for cleaning your inhaler.

To use a dry powder inhaler

  • Remove the inhaler cap, if there is one.
  • Add or load a dose of medicine as directed by your health care provider.
  • Tilt your head back a little, and breathe out slowly and completely. Hold the inhaler away from your mouth while you breathe out. Do not breathe out into the inhaler. This can blow some of the powder medicine out of the inhaler. The moisture in your breath also can cause the dry powder to clump together and clog the inhaler.
  • Place the inhaler's mouthpiece in your mouth. Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
  • Inhale quickly and deeply through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. This pulls the powder from the inhaler into your lungs. After you have inhaled the powder, take the inhaler out of your mouth.
  • Hold your breath for 10 seconds. This will let the medicine settle in your lungs. Then slowly breathe out through pursed lips. Make sure not to breathe out into the inhaler.
  • Repeat these steps if you need to take a second dose.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.