Getting the Most from Your Inhaler…

Dear Editor,

I recently went to a breathing class at Bonner General Hospital, and did I have a rude awakening. I’ve been using Albuterol inhalers for many years, the kind where I shake the small bottle and then insert it into an “L” shaped plastic dispenser and take a quick puff of the medication to alleviate shortness of breath in a quick-acting manner.  Problem being, after all these years of using this inhaler I’ve found out I‘ve only been getting 50 percent or less of the medication into my system. The reason? There’s another component that should be used with the inhaler. It’s called a “spacer.”

The spacer is a cylindrical plastic device that is shaped like an empty toilet paper tube. I learned that instead of getting a quick fraction of a second puff of medication into my mouth, as was done all these past years with the inhaler, with the spacer I slowly inhale (over a period of 3 to 6 seconds) so I get the most medication/relief down as far into my lungs as possible. The spacer makes a whistling sound if I try to inhale the air-medication into my lungs too quickly, telling me to slow down my inhaling. By incorporating the spacer with the inhaler I find I don’t need to use the inhaler nearly as often.

Question for the medical community: “Why isn’t the spacer automatically supplied with the inhaler?”

Michael Harmelin
Vietnam veteran

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