How to Take Asthma Medications

Asthma medications are dispensed through a variety of delivery methods. With an increasing number of available inhalers, it is most important to know exactly how to use them. When inhalers are not correctly used, less medication gets deep into the airways, making the asthma treatment less effective. Before you or other caregivers use an inhaler for a child, or use one for yourself, you must learn the technique from your health care providers, nurses, pharmacists, or asthma educators. Expect to demonstrate the inhaler technique back, to ensure that you are successfully using the asthma medication. 

           Allergy and Asthma Network's Respiratory Treatment poster in English and Spanish

1.  Inhalers

  • Metered Dose Inhalers (MDI): small device that uses a propellant to produce a spray (or puff) in a measured amount of medication in the lungs. Discharged at a high speed, some of the medication may not reach the lungs and is deposited in the throat. Attaching a spacer/aerochamber allows more time to transport the aerosol to the lungs and improves the delivery of the asthma medication in the lungs.
  • Fact sheet about using MDI with a spacer in English and Spanish

Demonstration of MDI and spacer:

1. Adult

2. Children (mouthpiece)

3. Children (mouthpiece with spacer and mask)

Dry powder inhalers (DPI):  This device delivers medication to the lungs in the form of a dry powder.

1. Understanding Dry Powder Inhalers

2. Fact sheet for Dry Powder Inhalers (English)/(Spanish)

3. Dry Powder Inhaler demonstration

4. Dry Powder Tube Inhaler demonstration

5.  Click here to learn about some of the more common DPIs.


Breath Actuated Inhalers:  Can be a dry powder or an aerosolized released when breathing in

1.  Breath Actuated Device Video


Nebulizer:  An air compressor device that turns the liquid medication (provided in sterile unit dose vials) into a mist.  It can be used with a mouthpiece or a mask.

1. How to Use a Nebulizer Fact Sheets (English/Spanish)

2. How to Properly Use a Nebulizer (Adults/Young Children/School-age with mouthpiece)

Pre-filled syringes or Intravenous infusions:  Biologic treatments are indicated for people whose asthma symptoms are not well controlled with the standard combination of quick relief and control medications.  Most biologics are administered in a health provider’s office as a subcutaneous injection or as an intravenous infusion.

Click here for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's fact sheet "How to Properly Use Your Asthma Devices".