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Dos and Don’ts for COPD Inhalers

Inhaled medications are some of the foundations of treatment for COPD. Since COPD is a disease of the airways, it makes sense that medications inhaled right into those airways would be highly effective. These types of medications are transmitted into the mouth and then on to the airways through a plastic device that can disseminate the drug in either a vaporized mist or in a fine dry powder form.

Inhaled medications are used both for ongoing maintenance treatment as well as to occasionally treat COPD flares when needed. Some people with COPD also are prescribed medications that are inhaled via a nebulizer device. This article does not address nebulizers.

Although inhaled medications are widely prescribed in COPD, knowing how to use them correctly is not always easy. If you don’t use your inhaler correctly, then you may not be getting the most from your medication. So, let’s look at some “dos” and “don’ts” of inhalers.

Inhaler Don’ts

  • Don’t let your inhaler run out. Some inhalers have counters on them, but not all do.
  • Don’t exhale into your inhaler; only inhale from it.
  • Don’t try to wash dry powder inhalers (DPI, for short).
  • Don’t try to take a DPI apart.
  • Don’t rely on a rescue inhaler as daily treatment; if you need to use it every day, be sure to notify your doctor. You may need a dose change on your maintenance inhaler or other treatment.

Inhaler Dos

  • Do take 1 to 2 deep breaths in and out before using the inhaler, then breathe in deeply as you activate the device.
  • Do hold your breath for about 10 seconds after inhaling the medication.
  • Do rinse your mouth out with water afterward and spit out the water, especially if your inhaler contains a steroid.
  • Do wash the plastic inhaler device in a metered dose inhaler regularly. (Does not apply to DPIs.)
  • Do check expiration dates on your inhalers to make sure they are still effective (especially rescue inhalers).
  • Do keep track of how many doses are left in your inhaler. If there is no counter, then track your doses on a calendar.
  • Do store DPIs in a dry place at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  • Do wait 1 minute between puffs with a rescue inhaler; waiting is not necessary between puffs of other inhalers.
  • Do ask a respiratory therapist, physician or nurse to observe your inhaler technique.
  • Do be open with your health care professional about how the inhaler is working for you.

In Summary

Inhaled COPD medications are safe and effective, when used properly. For your health’s sake and to get the most from your medication, take the time to learn the all the dos and don’ts of inhaler use. Your airways will thank you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Donjaxon
    4 months ago

    Thank you for this helpful information on inhalers.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Donjaxon and thanks for letting us know you found the information in this article by Kathi McNaughton to be so helpful. We appreciate you taking the time to post. Leon (site moderator)

  • garricks
    2 years ago

    Thanks Leon. I’m still very new to all of this…

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    It’s our pleasure, Garricks. Glad to have you here as part of our online community.
    You may want to check us out on our Facebook page:
    You’ll find many from our community frequent that site often throughout the days and exchange experiences, information and similarities regarding all things COPD.

    You should feel free to access our websites as often and for as long as you like.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • garricks
    2 years ago

    I notice you didn’t mention spacers like the AeroChamber in this article. Any thoughts on using a spacer? All the respiratory folks insist on my using one with my inhalers, but I really don’t notice any difference not using one.


  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Garricks – that’s a very good question and one that has generated a lot of interesting discussion within our community. I thought you might find it helpful to look over this article on that very topic: Spacers:
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

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