What is an MDI Spacer and Why Do You Need One?
* A spacer is needed to hold your asthma medicine in a cloud until you can pull it into your lungs with a deep breath.
* If you don’t use a spacer with your asthma medicine, it ends up on tongue and on the walls of your throat where it can’t help your asthma and usually causes a yeast infection.
* Spacers should be used with all of your asthma medicine that comes in a metered dose inhaler (MDI).
* Medicine administered by a dry powder inhaler does not require a spacer since the design of the inhaler stirs and suspends the dry powder particles so they can be inhaled deeply.
In order for asthma medication to reach the lining of your breathing tubes, it must be suspended in the air you inhale.
Most asthma medication is manufactured in liquid form. It is contained in a pressurized canister called a Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI).
When this canister is triggered, it converts the medication to an aerosol mist.
This mist is inhaled by you to carry the medicine to the lining of your breathing tubes.
For years, you may have been holding your MDI up to your lips while inhaling, believing the medicine is actually getting into your lungs.
Unfortunately, most of the medicine lands on the walls of your mouth, throat and tongue. It cannot help your breathing if it does not get deeper into your breathing tubes.
There is an inexpensive and effective solution to this problem.
It is called a spacer.
A spacer is a tubular chamber that plugs onto the MDI.
On one end it has a mouthpiece or mask, with a built-in valve.
When you trigger the MDI, the spacer holds your medicine suspended as a cloud.
This cloud hangs in the spacer chamber until you inhale from the mouthpiece end.
Because the medicine is suspended, it flows with the air you inhale down into your lungs where we really need to get it.
The valve keeps the “cloud” of medicine in the chamber, permitting it to go ONLY one way, down into your lungs.
Quite often, patients ask if they can use a nebulizer to deliver their asthma medication.
Once they were miniaturized in the 1970’s, nebulizers became quite popular as a way to administer asthma medicine.
They do have many limitations though.
The biggest problem is that they don’t fit in your pocket.
That means when you need your medication, but don’t have a nebulizer, you’ll be in trouble.
Most nebulizers depend on AC or battery power which may not be available to you when you feel your asthma kicking in.
They also require tubing to transmit compressed air to the medicine chamber.
And, there are many parts to keep track of and clean.
In comparison, the spacer is simple, portable, and easily replaced if you lose it.
And, most importantly, research conducted in the past 5 years shows that the amount of medicine reaching your lungs and breathing tubes is higher when you use a spacer than with a nebulizer.
My asthma patients depend on their spacers.
Where do you get one?
I order the pharmacy to provide a spacer for each of my patients using an MDI medication.
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