How Not to Use an Inhaler

Inhalers are a daily fact of life for tens of millions of Americans, including people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as those with asthma and other breathing issues. But it is not enough to prescribe an inhaler for someone with breathing problems. Studies show that two-thirds of people do not use their inhaler correctly.

That’s why having a medical team follow up closely, as the government-approved PACE program Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is able to do, can make all the difference in the world.

Research at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas has identified nine separate steps involved in using an inhaler — and they also found that no patient they studied, including those who had been using inhalers for years, did them all correctly.

What happens when inhalers are used incorrectly? A study at Rice University found that without the correct technique, only 7% to 40% of medication actually reaches the lungs of an inhaler user.

The most common mistakes are:

  1. Not shaking the inhaler enough before use. An inhaler contains medication and It needs to be shaken 10-15 times before each use in order to combine the two.
  2. Positioning the inhaler incorrectly. A deviation of even 5 degrees from the correct position can lead to medication remaining in the mouth, rather than traveling to the lungs.
  3. Inhaling and exhaling too quickly. To reach the lungs, a person should inhale each puff for approximately five seconds, then hold it in for ten seconds, and finally breathe it out through the mouth for ten seconds. Any less than this means that the medication is not in the body long enough to make enough of the difference.
  4. Taking the second puff too soon after the first. If someone has been instructed to take two puffs of an inhaler, is important to allow the first puff enough time to open the passageways. In that way, the second puff can reach deeper into the lungs. Taking that second puff too soon is not just useless, it can cause trembling and shakiness rather than leading to relief.
  5. Not cleaning the inhaler. The plastic mouthpiece of an inhaler should be rinsed at least once a week. This removes any build-up of medication that might block a full dosage of the spray.

Breathing issues lead not only to increased mortality, but also to reduced quality of life. Managing them is essential.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is set up to ensure that people get to help them care they need. Beacon of Life is a government-approved PACE program that provides the ability to meet the health care needs of frail seniors, 55 or older, while enabling them to continue living in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

We provide a variety of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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