Only about 5-20% of asthmatics use their inhalers correctly, even after many years. Many people spray the asthma medicine into the back of the throat in such a way that it doesn’t effectively reach the airways. This results in poor asthma control.
To start, check if you’re using any of the following pumps, all of which are available in South Africa:
If you’re using any of these pumps, it’s important to test your inhaler technique. Tick the appropriate boxes below as accurately as possible. The steps should be followed in sequence. If you follow the steps correctly, you can tick the ‘yes’ column. If you don’t, you must tick the ‘no’ column.
Tick the correct box
Shake inhaler well (at least 3 or 4 shakes).
Take a deep breath and breathe out (away from the inhaler) before using the pump.
Tilt your head slightly backwards.
With the inhaler in your mouth, start breathing in slowly and press the pump/inhaler at the same time as you’re breathing in.
After removing the inhaler from your mouth, hold your breath for 10-15 seconds.
Breathe out slowly through your nose.
Use one puff at a time (not two puffs at the same time).
Wait at least 30 seconds before taking your next puff.
You should have ticked ‘yes’ throughout. If not, follow the entire inhaler technique again until you’ve ticked ‘yes’ in all the boxes.
Achieving the correct inhaler technique may require a fair amount of practice. Ask your pharmacist or doctor to check your technique. If you can’t get the technique right, it might be time to change over to powder devices or to use a spacer device with a metered-dose inhaler. Powder devices are easier to use, but generally more expensive.
Remember: If you’re not using a proper inhaler technique, you’re probably spraying the inhaler into the back of your throat and not into your chest. The inhaler will not be effective in controlling your asthma.
Reviewed by independent healthcare consultant Prof Praneet Valodia and pulmonologist Prof Elvis Irusen, Head of the Division of Pulmonology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. October 2018.