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Medication & Monitoring

Who Can Use an Inhaler?

Inhalers (say: in-HAY-lurz) work to get medicine right into your lungs, where it can help stop breathing problems related to asthma. Inhalers are small and easily fit into your pocket or backpack. Research shows that even young kids can use inhalers, especially when they’re used with a spacer.

There are two types of inhalers:

  1. Metered (say: MEE-terd) dose inhalers are the most common. They spray out a mist of liquid medicine that you breathe in. They might remind you of how a can of hair spray works.
  2. Dry powder inhalers deliver medicine in a powder form. You inhale and pull the medicine into your lungs. They’re a little easier to use than metered dose inhalers, but you have to breathe in a bit harder.

Any kid, even a baby, can use a metered dose inhaler with a spacer and a mask. Once a kid is 5 or 6 years old, he or she can learn to use a metered dose inhaler with just a spacer. Most kids that age are also able to use a dry powder inhaler. Your doctor will help you decide what type of inhaler you should use. You may try several different kinds before you find the right one.

If your doctor has given you an inhaler, it’s important that you learn how to use it correctly. You may need to practice at home. Sometimes, during a visit to the doctor, the doctor or nurse will ask to see how you use your inhaler to make sure you’re doing it correctly. If not, don’t worry — practice makes perfect!

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014