Inhalers are a fact of life for tens of millions of Americans, including 11 million people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Despite their importance, studies repeatedly show that as many as two-thirds of people who rely on an inhaler, do not use it correctly.
COPD is a life-threatening lung condition in which airflow to the lungs is impaired. Once known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, COPD is progressive — and it is the third leading cause of death in the US. Although there is no cure for COPD, it can be treated, and inhalers are the cornerstone of that treatment.
In the absence of proper technique, only 7% to 40% of medication actually reaches the lungs of an inhaler user.
Research at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas, broke inhaler usage into nine separate steps, and found that no patient they studied — including those who had been using inhalers for years — performed every step correctly.
What happens when inhalers are used incorrectly? A study at Rice University determined that in the absence of proper technique, only 7% to 40% of medication actually reaches the lungs of an inhaler user.
The most common mistakes include:
- Not shaking the inhaler enough. An inhaler contains medication plus a propellant that helps that medication get to the lungs. The inhaler needs to be shaken 10-15 times before each use in order to combine the medication and propellant thoroughly.
- Positioning the inhaler incorrectly. As small a deviation from proper positioning as 5 degrees can cause the medication to remain in the mouth, rather than reaching the lungs.
- Inhaling and exhaling too quickly. To properly reach the lungs, each puff of the inhaler should be inhaled over the course of five seconds, held in the lungs for ten seconds, then breathed out through the mouth over the course of ten seconds. Failure to do so prevents the medication from being able to take full effect.
- Taking a second puff too soon. When instructed to take two puffs of your inhaler, it is important to allow the first puff enough time to open the passageways so that the second puff can reach further. Taking that second puff too soon is not merely useless, it can lead to trembling and shakiness rather than relief.
- Not cleaning the inhaler. The plastic mouthpiece of an inhaler should be rinsed at least once a week. This will remove the build-up of medication that can block a full dosage of the spray.
COPD leads not only to increased mortality, but also to reduced quality of life. Managing this disease properly is essential. COPD sufferers should enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program in order to exercise their lungs, increase their fitness, as well as learn how to manage their disease with medications, including proper usage of their inhaler.
Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in pulmonary rehabilitation. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.
Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.