Using an Inhaler

Using Your Inhaler

Tips for Effectively Using Your Inhaler

  • Make sure there is medication in your inhaler and it’s not empty. Many inhalers have a dose counter, which should tell you how many doses are left. 
  • Read the instructions that come with your inhaler and ask your pharmacist or provider about any questions you may have. 
  • Make sure you never run out of your maintenance inhalers by using a mail order pharmacy to get a 3 month supply at a time. Enroll online or call Cornerstone Health Solutions at 1-844-319-7588 for more information.
  • Keep track of how often you use your rescue inhaler and how many puffs you take so you can tell your provider at every visit.  

Maintenance Inhalers

Rescue Inhalers

  • Contain long-term control medications that are important to keep your asthma well-controlled
  • Need to be used every day to prevent asthma symptoms
  • Most maintenance inhalers are not meant to relieve symptoms immediately (like a rescue inhaler) but a few can be used for rescue (see box below)
  • Treat the airway inflammation that causes asthma symptoms, which can reduce or eliminate asthma flares
  • It’s important to use your maintenance inhaler everyday as directed by your provider to keep your asthma controlled
  • Maintenance Inhaler Examples: Arnuity Ellipta, Flovent, Advair, Breo Ellipta, Qvar
  • Contain fast-acting medication to quickly open your airways and make breathing easier
  • Used when your asthma symptoms, like shortness of breath or wheezing, flare up
  • Work almost immediately to start relieving symptoms
  • Knowing when you need to use a rescue inhaler can help prevent an asthma attack
  • If you need to use your rescue inhaler multiple times per day, talk to your doctor
  • Albuterol used to be the rescue inhaler of choice, but now some combination inhalers are recommended for rescue treatment and are sometimes preferred over albuterol

Types of Inhalers



(Dry Powder Inhaler)

  • For some DPIs, you will need to load a capsule into the device first. (These capsules are NOT meant to be swallowed and should only be used in the device.) Other devices already come loaded with capsules.
  • DPIs are “breath-activated”, which means that the medication is released when you breath in.
  • With the mouthpiece between your front teeth and your lips sealed around it, breathe in through your mouth quickly and deeply for 2-3 seconds.
  • Remove the inhaler from your mouth and hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds before you exhale.
  • To clean your DPI, wipe the mouthpiece with a dry cloth.

Examples: Advair Diskus, Arnuity Ellipta, Breo Ellipta, Flovent Diskus



(Metered Dose Inhaler) 

  • The first time you use an MDI (each refill), you must prime your inhaler. See you package insert forspecific instructions.
  • Before using, shake the MDI vigorously for 5 seconds
  • You must take a slow, deep breathe in through your mouth as you press down on the canister to release the medication, then hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds before you exhale.
  • Make sure to clean your MDI on a regular basis. See the instructions that come with your inhaler for cleaning recommendations.
  • If you have trouble inhaling the medication when you press down on the canister, ask your doctor about using a spacer.

Examples: Advair HFA, albuterol HFA, Alvesco, Flovent HFA, Qvar



(Soft Mist Inhaler)

  • Before use, you must insert the cartridge into the device. Do not shake the inhaler.
  • Hold the SMI horizontally with the mouthpiece in your mouth and take a slow deep breathe in through your mouth as you press the button on the side of the SMI.
  • When your lungs are full, hold your breath for 10 seconds, then remove the inhaler from your mouth and slowly breathe out.
  • Clean your SMI once a week by wiping the inside and outside of the mouthpiece with a damp cloth.

Examples: Combivent Respimat, Spiriva Respimat

*For specific step-by-step instructions, see the package insert that came with your medication.

How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler With a Spacer

  1. Take off the inhaler cap and make sure the spray hole and mouth piece are clean
  2. Shake inhaler 10-15 times
  3. Put inhaler mouthpiece into end of the spacer
  4. Inhale a deep breath and breathe out all the way
  5. Hold inhaler and spacer between pointer finger and thumb
  6. Put the mouthpiece of the spacer in your mouth above your tongue
  7. Close your lips around the spacer and tilt your head back
  8. Press on the inhaler once and breathe in slowly and deeply
  9. Hold the air in for 5-10 seconds
  10. Open your mouth and breathe out slowly

Watch the video below to see how it's done.

Understanding Your Diagnosis

Search our health library to learn more about a medical condition or symptom

These resources can help answer many of your questions about asthma:

What Can Care Management Do For You?

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Work with your Well Sense Care Manager to learn how to manage your asthma. Our Care Management Program is is offered at no cost to our members, and it’s just a phone call away. Call 1-855-833-8119 to see if you or your family members are eligible for this program.

Care Management