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Caring for Inhalers

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KEY POINTS

  • Inhalers are hand-held devices that let your child breathe medicine directly into his or her lungs.
  • It is important to keep inhalers clean and dry. Don’t put an inhaler in the refrigerator or leave it in a hot car or out in the sun.
  • Each brand of inhaler is different, so follow the care instructions that come with your child’s inhaler.

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What are inhalers?

Inhalers are hand-held devices that let your child breathe medicine directly into his or her lungs. There are 2 kinds of inhalers:

  • A metered-dose inhaler (MDI) releases a mist of medicine when your child presses a button on the canister. Metered-dose inhalers contain a harmless gas that helps the medicine get into your child’s lungs.
  • A dry powder inhaler (DPI) releases powdered medicine when your child puts his lips on the inhaler and then quickly takes a deep breath.

Proper care of your child’s inhaler will help keep it working well. Each brand of inhaler is different, so follow the instructions that come with your child’s inhaler.

How do I care for a metered dose inhaler?

Metered dose inhalers usually have 3 parts:

  • A metal canister that contains the medicine
  • A plastic cap that covers the end of the canister
  • A spacer, which is a clear plastic bag or tube with a mask or mouthpiece on one end and a connector for the canister at the other end. It holds the medicine so that your child has more time to breathe in the medicine.

Older children or teens may not need to use a spacer.

To care for your child’s medicine canister, mouthpiece, and cap:

  • Wipe the mouthpiece and cap with a clean cloth after each use to keep them clean.
  • Once a day, or at least every few days, remove the cap and rinse the mouthpiece with warm running water for about 30 seconds. Shake it to remove excess water and allow it to air-dry overnight before you put the cap back on.
  • Check the hole where the medicine comes out of the canister to make sure it’s open and working. If it seems clogged, use a damp cotton swab to clean it.
  • Keep the medicine canister dry and store it with the cap in place to help keep it clean. If it falls into water, like into a bathtub or swimming pool, it may not spray correctly. Throw it away and get another one.
  • Store the inhaler at room temperature and keep it from getting too hot or too cold. Don’t put it in the refrigerator or leave it in a hot car or out in the sun.
  • If you keep the inhaler in a purse or travel bag, put it in a zippered case to help keep it clean.

If your child is using a spacer, clean it once a week and anytime your child has been sick.

  • Take all parts of the spacer apart. Soak the pieces in warm soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes and shake them gently to get soapy water into all of the parts.
  • Rinse the pieces well with clear water. Shake off any excess water and allow the pieces to air-dry between uses. Don’t use a cloth or tissue to clean or dry the inside of the spacer. This can leave lint or fiber pieces that can cause static electricity inside the spacer. This can decrease the amount of medicine that gets to your child’s lungs.
  • Don’t put the spacer in the dishwasher to clean it.

If your child uses a collapsible bag instead of a spacer, don’t wash the bag. Replace it once a month or whenever it cracks, tears, or shows other signs of wear.

How do I care for a dry powder inhaler?

Each brand of DPI is different, so follow the instructions that come with your child’s inhaler. Some general guidelines for care include:

  • Don’t wash a dry powder inhaler. Keep it dry at all times. Don’t store it in a damp place like the bathroom. If it falls into water, like into a bathtub or swimming pool, it may not spray correctly. Throw it away and get another one.
  • If your child gets saliva on the mouthpiece, wipe it with a dry clean cloth. If the inhaler has a cap, keep the cap on the inhaler when it’s not in use to keep it clean.
  • Store the inhaler at room temperature and keep it from getting too hot or too cold. Don’t put it in the refrigerator or leave it in a hot car or out in the sun.
  • If you keep the inhaler in a purse or travel bag, put it in a zippered case to help keep it clean.

Check the instructions that come with your child’s inhaler or talk with your pharmacist or child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-04-13
Last reviewed: 2016-06-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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