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Learning About Helping Your Child Use an Inhaler Correctly

What are inhalers used for in children?

An inhaler is used to send medicine right to your child's lungs. It's often used for asthma and other lung diseases that make it hard to breathe.

Using an inhaler:

  • Sends most of the medicine straight to your child's lungs.
  • Provides a measured dose of the medicine.
  • Can help keep your child's symptoms under control.
  • Can limit long-term damage to your child's lungs.
  • Can be safer than if your child took a pill or liquid medicine.
  • Works just as well, is easier to carry, is faster to use, and has fewer side effects than a nebulizer machine.

What devices can your child use?

Different types of devices can send inhaled medicine straight to your child's lungs. They include metered-dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers, and nebulizers. Your child may need to use more than one type of device.

How can you use it correctly?

Each kind of inhaler is used differently.

Make sure to save the manufacturer's instructions. Don't throw them away.

Pay attention to the instructions for your specific inhaler. Look for directions on:

  • Whether to prime or shake it.
  • Whether to use a spacer with a mask or a spacer with a mouthpiece. Using a spacer with a metered dose inhaler improves the delivery of the medicine.
  • Whether you have to load medicine into the inhaler.
  • How to use the inhaler to deliver the medicine. This includes how to hold it, when to breathe, and how long to hold your breath.
  • How to know how many doses are left.
  • How to clean it.
  • How to store it.
  • When to throw it away.

Why is it important to use it correctly?

Correct use of an inhaler:

  • Makes sure that the lungs get the full dose. This can mean fewer symptoms and better treatment.
  • Leads to fewer side effects. Sometimes people have side effects if the medicine hits the inside of the mouth instead of going into the lungs.
  • Saves money.

Ask your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or respiratory therapist to show you how to use the inhaler. They might ask you to show them how you use it, so they can help fix any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's 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 your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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