Inhalers are a daily fact of life for tens of millions of Americans, including 11 million with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Nevertheless, studies show that two-thirds of people do not use their inhaler correctly.
COPD is a life-threatening lung disease in which airflow to the lungs is impaired. COPD, a progressive condition once known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, 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.
Research at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas identified at least nine separate steps required for using an inhaler, and found that no patient they studied — including those who had been using inhalers for years — utilized proper technique.
What happens when inhalers are used incorrectly? A study at Rice University found that without 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 before using it. An inhaler contains both medication and a propellant, and needs to be shaken 10-15 times before each use in order to combine the two thoroughly.
- Positioning the inhaler incorrectly. Even a 5 degree deviation from the correct position can cause the medication to remain in your mouth, rather than reaching your lungs.
- Inhaling and exhaling too quickly. To properly reach your lungs, you should inhale each puff for approximately five seconds, hold it in for ten seconds, then breathe it out through your mouth for ten seconds.
- Taking a second puff too soon. If you have been instructed to take two puffs of your inhaler, 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 your inhaler. The plastic mouthpiece of your 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.
Hamilton Grove Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, offers pulmonary rehabilitation that allows COPD sufferers, as well as others with breathing disorders, to live their best possible life. Contact Hamilton Grove by clicking here.