Asthma spacers

Everything you need to know


An asthma spacer is a device that resembles a plastic tube to help you use your asthma inhaler with greater ease. Standard inhalers often come in the form of a metered-dose inhaler. They can be tricky for some people to use as you need to press down on it and breathe in at the same time. If you breathe too quickly then the medicine doesn’t always reach your lungs, ending up in the back of your throat or mouth instead. It can be particularly hard for children to get the hang of the correct technique.


How does an asthma spacer work?

An asthma spacer has two ends; you fasten one end to the mouthpiece of your inhaler and the other forms the mouthpiece for you to breathe into. When you press down on your inhaler it sprays the medicine into the spacer ready for you to breathe in from there.

There are different types and sizes designed for particular inhalers, including paediatric varieties for babies. You can get the correct one on prescription or buy it directly from a pharmacy after consulting with a doctor or pharmacist. They will be able to advise how to use it correctly and issue you with the correct size to fit your inhaler.

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How does a spacer help?

Using a spacer makes it easier to get the medicine from your inhaler directly to your lungs where it’s needed. If you find it difficult to breathe in at the same time as pressing down on your inhaler then you may benefit from using a spacer. It slows down the process of spraying the medicine from your inhaler into your lungs, stopping it from going into the back of your mouth and throat. Instead, it allows you to breathe it in easier, reducing the amount of medicine you use each time.

It also helps to prevent possible side effects from preventer medication such as oral thrush so this is a good option if you are prone to developing this.

It’s recommended that all children under the age of 5 should use a spacer with their asthma inhalers and for children up to age 15 to use them with their preventer medication.


How do you use an asthma spacer?

Your doctor or pharmacist will demonstrate how to use an asthma spacer and will check up on your technique with each review appointment. For babies and young children, they will be given a face mask to help them breathe into it. There are eight steps to follow to ensure you are using your asthma spacer correctly.

  1. Take the cap off your inhaler and shake it

  2. Attach the end of the spacer to your inhaler

  3. Gently breathe out as slowly as you can

  4. Place the mouthpiece of the spacer between your teeth, sealing your lips to make sure no medicine escapes

  5. Press down on your inhaler to let out one puff

  6. Breathe in gradually through the mouthpiece

  7. Take the spacer out of your mouth and hold your breath for up to ten seconds before breathing out steadily through your nose

  8. If a second dose is needed, wait for 30 seconds before removing your inhaler from the spacer, shaking it and repeating these steps

If you are struggling to hold your breath when you get to step six you can keep the spacer in your mouth and take five breaths in and out of the mouthpiece. This will be just as effective as holding your breath.

If you’re helping your child use their inhaler through a spacer here are some helpful tips:

  1. Explain to them what is going to happen and what they need to do so that they understand. Reassure them that there’s no need to be frightened

  2. Remove the cap and shake the inhaler. Get your child to help so that they can learn how to do it

  3. Insert the end of the spacer into the inhaler

  4. Put the mouthpiece into your child’s mouth between their teeth and get them to seal it with their lips so the medicine can’t escape

  5. Push down on the canister to let out one puff of medicine

  6. Make sure they breathe in and out five times through the spacer

  7. If needed, wait 30 seconds until repeating, making sure you shake the canister

Always follow the instructions given by your doctor and if you’re struggling then they can help you to review your technique.

It can be tricky to use a spacer and inhaler with a baby. Cuddle and reassure them so that they don’t see there is anything to be worried about. You could try showing them first by pretending to use it yourself, or with a toy. Distracting them with familiar music or videos might help to soothe them.


How do you clean an asthma spacer?

You should clean your spacer regularly once a month and before the first use. Sometimes it might look cloudy but that doesn’t mean it’s not clean. To clean it thoroughly, take the spacer apart and soak it in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes. Gently scrub the outside and the mouthpiece but not the inside of the spacer. Rinse and leave it to air dry.

To keep it in good condition, avoid putting the spacer in a plastic bag and keep it away from dust, dirt and liquids. You’ll need to replace it at least once a year.

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