May 18, 2024
Respiratory Inhalers

Breathing Easier: The Essential Guide to Respiratory Inhalers

Respiratory illnesses affect millions of people worldwide. Inhalers have become one of the most effective and commonly prescribed treatment options for respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While many people may be aware of inhalers, not everyone knows the various types available and how to use them properly for maximum benefit. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of different inhaler types and their proper usage.

Types of Respiratory Inhalers

Metered dose inhalers, also known as puffers, are one of the most commonly prescribed inhaler types. They contain pressurized gas that helps deliver the right dose of medication with each puff. Some key advantages of MDI inhalers include portability and not requiring battery power. However, proper coordination of puffing and inhalation is required for these inhalers to work effectively. coordination is not easy for all patients to master, especially during acute exacerbations.

Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs)

Dry powder inhalers contain medications in powder form that are released with a burst of inhaled air through capful inhalation. Popular DPI brands include Turbuhaler, Diskus, and Ellipta. Compared to MDIs, DPIs do not require coordination of actuation and inhalation. However, patients need to generate sufficient inspiratory flow through capful inhalation to ensure proper dosing. Elderly patients or those with severe asthma/COPD may face challenges using DPIs.

Soft Mist Inhalers (SMIs)

Soft mist inhalers generate a slow-moving cloud of medication particles for patients to inhale. The mist form makes coordination of actuation and inhalation easier compared to other inhalers. However, SMIs are more expensive than other inhaler types. Only a few medications like Afrezza are currently available as SMIs.


Nebulizers use ultrasonic Respiratory Inhalers  waves or compressed air to turn liquid medications into a mist that patients inhale through a mouthpiece or mask. They are usually plugged into wall outlets but portable battery-powered versions are also available. Nebulizers deliver larger medication doses than other inhalers but require more time for treatments. They are preferred for patients who cannot coordinate use of other inhalers.

Selecting the Right Inhaler

Several factors determine which type of inhaler is most suitable for a particular patient:

– Severity of condition: Nebulizers best for acute exacerbations or severe asthma/COPD. Others for maintenance.

– Lung function and inspiratory flow: DPIs may not work for those with very low lung function.

– Dexterity and coordination: MDIs and DPIs require better coordination than SMIs or nebulizers.

– Refill frequency: MDIs and DPIs usually last 1-3 months between refills.

– Costs: MDIs and DPIs generally cheaper than SMIs or nebulizers. Insurance coverage varies.

– Convenience of use: MDIs and DPIs portable; SMIs and nebulizers less so.

Doctors consider these factors to initiate the most suitable inhaler therapy. If one type does not work, switching options based on severity fluctuations is common. Proper training improves effective usage.

Inhaler Technique and Common Errors

Correct inhaler technique is vital for medication deposition in lungs and optimal asthma/COPD control. Common errors include:

– Not shaking MDIs or DPIs before use to ensure proper dosing.

– Inhaling too fast/hard or too shallowly through DPIs which impact dosing.

– Inhaling or breathing out through the mouthpiece of MDIs which deposits medicine in throat, not lungs.

-Not breathing in slowly and deeply through MDIs or DPIs which doesn’t carry medication deep in lungs.

– Not holding breath for 5-10 seconds after inhalation from any device to allow medication absorption.

– Not cleaning devices according to instructions which leads to blockages.

Pharmacists and doctors frequently review techniques and correct errors. Written instructions and follow-up reviews aid long-term success. Using inhalers as prescribed with ideal technique leads to best disease management.


Inhalers provide an essential mode of therapy delivery directly to lungs. With proper selection based on disease severity and patient ability, and optimal technique maintained through education and reviews, inhalers empower patients to effectively self-manage respiratory illnesses like asthma and COPD. While medication adherence for any chronic disease remains a challenge, inhaler access and appropriate use have greatly improved quality of life for millions managing respiratory diseases worldwide.