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Helping Your Child Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler With a Mask and Spacer: Care Instructions

Photo of putting the mask and spacer over a child's mouth and nose


A metered-dose inhaler provides a puff of medicine for your child's lungs in a measured dose.

The best way to get the most medicine into your child's lungs is to use a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler. A spacer is a chamber that you attach to the inhaler. The spacer holds the medicine so your child can use as many breaths as needed to inhale it.

A regular spacer has a mouthpiece that some younger children have a hard time using. They may need a face mask with a spacer instead. Your child uses the face mask instead of the mouthpiece. It fits over the child's mouth and nose.

A mask and spacer is used for children about 5 years old or younger. But some kids may not like to use it after about age 2. If this happens, you will need to teach your child how to use a regular spacer.

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 call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Before you use a metered-dose inhaler with a mask and spacer

  • Talk with your doctor about how to use it. Be sure your child uses it just as the doctor prescribes.
  • If your child is old enough, teach him or her how to check to make sure it is the right medicine. If your child uses several inhalers, label each one. Then make sure your child knows what medicine to use at what time. You might try using coloured stickers to teach the difference between medicines.
  • Keep track of how many puffs of medicine are in the inhaler. This may help you keep from running out of medicine. Refill the prescription before the medicine runs out. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how to keep track of how much medicine is left.

To start using it

  • 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 prime your inhaler.
  • Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom, and insert the inhaler into the mask and spacer.
  • Have your child tilt his or her head back slightly and breathe out slowly and completely.
  • Place the mask and spacer securely over your child's mouth and nose, being sure to get a good seal. The mask must fit snugly, with no gaps between the mask and the skin.
  • Press down on the inhaler to spray one puff of medicine into the spacer. Make sure the mask stays in place. If you are calm and talk with your child in a soothing voice, it will help your child understand that the mask is meant to help.
  • Have your child breathe in and out normally for about 20 seconds with the mask in place. This is how much time it takes to breathe in all the medicine.
  • If your child needs another puff of medicine, wait 30 seconds, and then spray another puff of the medicine.

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.