Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why You Need a Spacer for Your Inhaler

When we were first prescribed rescue inhalers to keep in case of emergency I was not very familiar with them.  My husband has asthma but he rarely uses an inhaler so I was hesitant and overwhelmed.  I thought that you simply grabbed the inhaler, took a quick puff, held your breath, and then were fine.  I've learned a few things since then.  After visiting with the respiratory therapist at our hospital I was introduced to the spacer.

What is a spacer?

Spacers are devices that fit with an inhaler and help ensure that the medicine is properly administered.

There are two more common types of spacers:

One has a round opening that is placed in the mouth.  The inhaler is attached to the other end and medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  Through taking normal breaths, the medicine is administered to the lungs.

The other type has a face mask that is placed over the nose and mouth.  The medicine is sprayed into the chamber of the spacer.  The medicine is administered to the lungs through the nose and mouth.

Which spacer do we have?

We actually have both.  However, we have found that Bee is most comfortable with using the spacer with the small mask.  I carefully fit the mask around her nose and mouth and administer her medicine.  She takes 5-8 normal breaths and then all the medicine has left the chamber and entered her lungs.  She is not as comfortable with placing the other spacer in her mouth.  Spacers with the mask are better for younger children.

Why do we use a spacer?

Without a spacer, much of the medicine from the inhaler sprays into the mouth and coats the teeth, tongue, and throat without reaching the lungs.  Less medicine actually reaches the lungs.  Also, much of the medicine can be swallowed and will end up in the stomach without reaching the lungs.

With a spacer, a child can breathe normally while the medicine is administered.  Because the medicine is sprayed into the chamber and not the mouth, most of the medicine is breathed directly into the lungs.  Therefore, a spacer ensures that the maximum amount of medicine enters the lungs.

So, in our little Epi Pen bags we have an inhaler and a spacer for when we need to use that inhaler.  Now I don't have to worry about whether Bee is getting the proper amount of medicine. 

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