What Is an Inhaler Used For?

Medically Reviewed on 2/5/2021

An inhaler is most commonly used by people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases
An inhaler is most commonly used by people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases

An inhaler is most commonly used by people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The medication is mostly in the form of a mist or sprays that a person breathes in. Because inhalers can provide the medicine directly to the lungs, they are an apt choice to treat asthma. They immediately open the narrowed airways. An inhaler can be used when you have

What is an inhaler?

Inhalers are medical devices that deliver medicine straight to your lungs. They deliver the drug in a concentrated form in the airways and may reduce the side effects of any medication. Inhalers are of three types:

Metered-dose inhalers (MDI): They are small hand-held devices that are filled with medicine. Each inhaler consists of a pressurized canister connected to a mouthpiece. The pressurized canister contains the following:

  • Medications in suspension or solution
  • Surfactant
  • Propellant
  • Metering valve

As you press down on the inhaler, it releases a mist of the medicine that needs to be breathed in. It is important to use the inhaler correctly to get the correct dose of the medication. MDI can be used with or without a spacer (also known as the holding chamber). Some of the medicines commonly used in MDI include:

  • Albuterol sulfate
  • Beclomethasone dipropionate
  • Ciclesonide
  • Flunisolide
  • Fluticasone propionate
  • Ipratropium bromide
  • Levalbuterol tartrate
  • Mometasone

Dry powder inhalers (DPI): These are breath actuated. The medicine gets delivered as you breathe in. Unlike MDI, DPI does not have a pressurized canister. You must release the medications in these inhalers by inhaling in a deep, fast breath. Some of the commonly used medications for DPI include:

Soft mist inhalers: These are propellant-free devices that are slightly bigger than conventional MDI. They release a low-velocity aerosol mist that can be gradually inhaled over a long period.

Based on the purpose served, there are different types of inhalers, which include:

  • Everyday control inhalers: These inhalers prevent exacerbation and keep symptoms from getting worse. Because the medicine controls inflammation, they are rightly known as control inhalers.
  • Quick-relief rescue inhalers: These quickly open the blocked or narrowed airways. They are mainly used for

They provide temporary relief and cannot control your asthma in the long term. Always carry a rescue inhaler with you wherever you go.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/5/2021
Buddiga P. Use of Metered Dose Inhalers, Spacers, and Nebulizers. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1413366-overview#a2

American Academy of Family Physicians. How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler. https://familydoctor.org/how-to-use-a-metered-dose-inhaler/

Mayo Clinic. Asthma Inhalers: Which One's Right For You? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/in-depth/asthma-inhalers/art-20046382#:~:text=Asthma%20inhalers%20are%20hand%2Dheld,prevent%20or%20treat%20asthma%20attacks.