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What to Know About Dry Powder Inhalers

Person with dry powder inhaler

Medications play a critical role in managing asthma by reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms and allowing for a more active life. There are a variety of asthma medications that your healthcare provider may prescribe for you, including quick-relief medications to treat acute symptoms and long-term control medications to prevent flare-ups.

Most asthma medications are taken via an inhaler. There are three types of inhalers used for asthma treatment: hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) inhalers, sometimes referred to as metered dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers (DPIs), and the less commonly used respimat inhalers.

In recent years, dry powder inhalers have become increasingly common in asthma treatment thanks to their ease of use and portable size, which makes them convenient to use if symptoms flare up unexpectedly. As with any device, proper use of your DPI is essential to receiving the full benefits of your medication, and it’s important to be mindful of several differences between DPIs and other inhalers. Read on to learn how to use a dry powder inhaler correctly.

Dry powder inhaler benefits

A dry powder inhaler is a handheld device that allows you to inhale your asthma medication in the form of a dry powder. It is a breath-activated device, so it will activate and release your medication automatically as soon as you start inhaling. Unlike HFA inhalers, which use a chemical propellant to deliver a dose of your medication in aerosol form, DPIs do not contain any ingredient other than the medication itself.

Your doctor may prescribe a DPI because of  dosage reliability. With an HFA inhaler, it may be difficult to know that you’ve received the entire metered dose. In contrast, most DPIs are specifically designed with a spinning technology that ensures you receive the full dose of your medication. DPIs also typically give you a visual indication that the full dose has been delivered. For example, the Advair Diskus® has a built-in dose counter which updates after each use.

If your doctor prescribes your medication to be administered with a DPI, your prescription will include both the DPI device and the medication. Commonly prescribed DPI medications include the Advair Diskus®, the Pulmicort Flexhaler®, and the Asmanex Twisthaler®.

How to use a dry powder inhaler correctly

How to use a dry powder inhaler correctly

How to use a dry powder inhaler correctly

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to use a dry powder inhaler correctly.

  • Remove the cap from your dry powder inhaler if there is one.
  • Load a dose of medicine, if needed. Some DPIs have a supply of medicine in them already while others require you to load each dose of medication. Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance.
  • Tilt your head back and breathe out to empty your lungs as much as possible. Make sure to hold your inhaler away from your mouth while you exhale, as breathing into your inhaler can blow out some of the medicine.
  • Place the mouthpiece of your inhaler in your mouth. Close your lips tightly around the opening so that the medicine cannot get out.
  • Inhale quickly and deeply for 2-3 seconds. Since DPIs are breath-activated, it’s important to breathe deep and fast so that the right dose of medicine is triggered.
  • Once you have inhaled the powder, remove the inhaler from your mouth and hold your breath to let the medication settle into your lungs. Then exhale slowly.

If your doctor has prescribed more than one dose of your medication, wait about a minute before taking your next dose.

If you are using an inhaled corticosteroid, gargle and rinse your mouth afterward with water to prevent throat irritation and oral yeast infections, two potential side effects of this medication class.

You may not necessarily taste or feel the dry powder after taking your medication, but as long as you’ve followed the steps above, you will receive the full dose.

Breathe easier with a better pharmacy

It’s normal to have questions when starting a new medication, and our team of pharmacists is here to offer guidance. We can walk you through the steps of using your inhaler, discuss potential side effects, and answer any other questions you may have. In addition, we offer free, same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills in our app to make it as simple as possible to stay on track with managing your asthma.

To learn more or get started, reach out any time through in-app messaging or by phone at 1-800-874-5881.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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