Types of Inhaler Delivery Systems

Inhaled medications can be taken through a metered-dose inhaler, dry-powder inhaler or a nebulizer, which is a device that generates a mist of medication similar to a humidifier. Some medications are available in only a single delivery system. Other medications are available in all three delivery systems. The effectiveness of a metered-dose inhaler depends on good technique. That is, you must be able to use the inhaler correctly so that the medication gets into the bronchi. With proper teaching and practice, many people can successfully use a metered-dose or dry-powder inhaler.

For some people, including small children and adults with arthritis or other conditions that impair their coordination or the use of their hands, using a metered-dose inhaler can be difficult. These people often do better with a nebulizer. Spacer devices, or holding chambers, can be attached to metered-dose inhalers. These devices reduce the amount of medication deposited in the mouth and throat, which renders the medication less effective in treating the asthma and contributes to side effects. Such devices can help those who have trouble coordinating their breathing with the use of the metered-dose inhaler.

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