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Many asthmatics donít use inhalers correctly (1-14-00)

For those who suffer from asthma, a metered dose medication inhaler (MDI) can literally be a lifesaveróbut many people donít use it correctly. "They need to be taught proper use of an inhaler," said David C. Shelledy, Ph.D., RRT, chairman of the Department of Respiratory Care at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

For the medication to be effective, hold the cannister about an inch away from your mouth, start to breathe in slowly as you press the top of the inhaler, then hold the medication in your lungs for up to 10 seconds. Dr. Shelledy said he sometimes counts for his patients. "Youíd be surprised," he said. "Ten seconds is a pretty long time." After the first puff, wait a minute or two before you take the second.

Better yet, he added, use your inhaler with a reservoir (spacer) tube, which makes the process basically foolproof. A nebulizer, which turns liquid medication into an aerosol that can be inhaled through a mouthpiece or mask, is also effective but not necessarily better. A nebulizer treatment takes from eight to ten minutes, and the equipment must be cleaned diligently to avoid the risk of infection. "At a minimum, wash the removable parts with soap and hot water and soak them in a vinegar and water solution," Dr. Shelledy said.

Dr. Shelledy had these tips for people with moderate to severe asthma:

    • Use pillow and mattress covers to cut down on dust mites. "Yes, those really do work," he said.
    • Change your furnace and air-conditioner filters often.
    • Avoid cigarette smoke, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.
    • Stay away from pets if youíre allergic to animal dander.
    • Repair plumbing leaks, which can lead to mold and mildew. Remove mildew stains with bleach.
    • Control cockroaches with traps, not sprayed insecticides.
    • Remove carpets and rugs, if you can, particularly in the asthmaticís bedroom. If you canít get rid of the rugs, vacuum often with a high-quality vacuum cleaner when the asthmatic is not around.
    • Avoid chemical cleaners and aerosol sprays with pungent scents. Use ammonia, baking soda and vinegar for household cleaning instead.
    • Wash stuffed toys frequently and take them out of childrenís rooms.

In addition, Dr. Shelledy said, "Anyone with asthma should have an action plan. He should know what to do in case of an acute episode."

Contact: Will Sansom or Jennifer Lorenzo