Metered Dose Inhalers: A Comprehensive Guide

Metered Dose Inhalers: A Comprehensive Guide

April 05, 2024



Inhalers have revolutionized the treatment of respiratory conditions, offering a convenient and effective way to deliver medication directly to the lungs. Among the various types of inhalers available, Metered dose inhalers (MDIs) stand out as a popular choice due to their ease of use and portability.

Understanding Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs)

MDIs are handheld devices that deliver a precise dose of medication in aerosol form. They consist of a pressurized canister containing the medication, a metering valve, and a mouthpiece. When the canister is pressed, it releases a measured amount of medication, which is then inhaled by the patient.

Components of a Metered Dose Inhaler

  • Canister: Contains the medication under pressure.
  • Metering Valve: Controls the release of medication.
  • Mouthpiece: Allows the patient to inhale the medication.

How Metered Dose Inhalers Work

MDIs work on the principle of aerosolization, where the medication is converted into tiny droplets or particles that can be easily inhaled into the lungs. When the canister is pressed, it releases a burst of propellant along with the medication. The propellant helps to atomize the medication, forming a fine mist that can penetrate deep into the airways.

Steps for Using a Metered Dose Inhaler

  1. Shake the inhaler to ensure proper mixing of the medication.
  2. Remove the cap and hold the inhaler upright.
  3. Exhale fully, away from the inhaler.
  4. Place the mouthpiece between your lips, forming a tight seal.
  5. Press down on the canister to release the medication while simultaneously inhaling deeply.
  6. Hold your breath for a few seconds to allow the medication to reach the lungs.
  7. Exhale slowly and repeat if necessary.

Advantages of Metered Dose Inhalers

MDIs offer several advantages over other forms of inhalation therapy:


MDIs are compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry around, whether at home or on the go. This portability ensures that patients have access to their medication whenever they need it, enhancing compliance with treatment regimens.

Precision Dosing

The metering valve in MDIs delivers a precise dose of medication with each actuation, ensuring consistent and accurate dosing. This precision is crucial for managing respiratory conditions effectively and minimizing the risk of side effects.


MDIs can deliver a wide range of medications, including bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and combination therapies. This versatility makes them suitable for treating various respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchitis.

Common Mistakes When Using Metered Dose Inhalers

Despite their simplicity, MDIs can be challenging to use correctly. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Not Shaking the Inhaler

Failing to shake the inhaler before use can result in inadequate mixing of the medication, leading to inconsistent dosing.

Incorrect Inhalation Technique

Many patients inhale too quickly or fail to coordinate the actuation of the inhaler with their breath, resulting in poor medication delivery.

Failure to Rinse the Mouth

Some medications used in MDIs can cause oral thrush or hoarseness if not rinsed out of the mouth after inhalation.


Metered dose inhalers are an invaluable tool for managing respiratory conditions, offering convenience, precision, and versatility in medication delivery. By understanding how MDIs work and using them correctly, patients can effectively control their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Are metered dose inhalers suitable for children?
  • Yes, MDIs can be used in children under the supervision of a healthcare professional. However, proper technique and dosage adjustment may be necessary.
  1. Can I use a spacer with a metered dose inhaler?
  • Yes, using a spacer can improve medication delivery and reduce the risk of side effects, especially for patients with poor inhalation technique.
  1. How often should I replace my metered dose inhaler?
  • It is recommended to replace your MDI when it is empty or when the dose counter indicates that it is running low. Additionally, check the expiration date regularly and replace the inhaler if it has expired.
  1. Can metered dose inhalers cause side effects?
  • Like any medication, MDIs can cause side effects, although they are generally well-tolerated. Common side effects may include dry mouth, throat irritation, and hoarseness.
  1. Are there any alternatives to metered dose inhalers?
  • Yes, other types of inhalers, such as dry powder inhalers (DPIs) and nebulizers, are available. Your healthcare provider can help determine the most suitable option based on your individual needs.


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