Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler With a Spacer: Care Instructions

A metered-dose inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs. "Metered-dose" means that the inhaler gives a measured amount of medicine each time you use it. This type of inhaler delivers medicine in the form of a liquid mist.

Using a spacer makes it easier for you to get medicine in your lungs. A spacer is a chamber that attaches to the inhaler. The spacer holds the dose of medicine while you inhale it.

  • Read the instructions that come with the inhaler and the spacer. Inhalers come in different shapes, sizes, and doses. Each kind is used differently.

  • Understand how to use the inhaler and spacer. Ask the nurse, doctor, pharmacist, or respiratory therapist to make sure you use it the right way.

  • Make sure you use the right inhaler at the right time. Label each inhaler if you have more than one.

  • Get inhaler refills before you run out. Use the dose counter to see how many doses are left.

  • Follow the instructions for cleaning the inhaler and the spacer. They will help you do it the right way for each inhaler.

  • Check the instructions to see if you need to prime the inhaler (get it ready) before use. If it needs priming, follow the instructions for how to do so.

How to use a metered-dose inhaler with a spacer

Follow these steps for using a metered-dose inhaler with a spacer.

Person shaking inhaler and removing its cap.

1. Shake the inhaler for 5 seconds. Remove the cap.

Mouthpiece of inhaler being placed into spacer.

2. Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom. Then place the mouthpiece of the inhaler into the spacer.

Person exhaling while holding inhaler and spacer near mouth.

3. Stand or sit up straight. With the spacer a short distance from your mouth, breathe out slowly and completely.

Person with mouthpiece of spacer in mouth.

4. Place the spacer's mouthpiece in your mouth. Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece and keep your tongue away from the opening.

Person breathing in through mouthpiece while pressing down on inhaler and then exhaling.

5. Press down on the inhaler to spray 1 puff of medicine into the spacer. Then start breathing in slowly and deeply. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove the spacer's mouthpiece from your mouth. Then breathe out slowly.

Wristwatch with shading to show elapsed time.

6. If you need another puff of medicine, wait 1 minute between puffs.

Person replacing caps on inhaler and spacer.

7. Remove the inhaler from the spacer, and replace their caps.

Person rinsing mouth and spitting into cup.

8. Rinse your mouth with water if the inhaler has corticosteroids, such as fluticasone. Do not swallow the water.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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