June 01, 2021


Differences in devices

Inhalers are hand-held, portable devices that deliver medication to your lungs. They are commonly used to treat conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

With both asthma and COPD, your lungs become inflamed — which can narrow the airways and produce extra mucus, making breathing difficult. Medications that are delivered through inhalers — such as inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators — can help alleviate these effects. These two types of medications work differently. Corticosteroids help suppress inflammation, and the bronchodilators relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways.

Inhalers dispense medication directly to your lungs, limiting side effects that are common with oral medications. But for you to get the full treatment benefit, you have to use the inhaler correctly.

Different inhalers can accommodate different medications, and some inhalers may be easier for you to use or be more suited to your needs. Though general instructions are provided below, training from a medical provider is essential.

Pressurized metered dose inhaler (pMDI)

Pressurized metered dose inhaler

Pressurized metered dose inhaler


This is the most common type of inhaler, and it uses a chemical propellant to deliver the medication. These inhalers have a canister that holds the medication and fits into a boot-shaped plastic mouthpiece. Some include dose counters so that you know how many doses remain.

To use

Shake the inhaler, assume an upright posture and exhale fully. Place lips around the mouthpiece, then push the canister down...