Young children taking inhaled asthma medications, such as albuterol and corticosteroids, often use a metered dose inhaler (MDI). Children are supposed to use spacers, a device that connects to their MDIs, to ensure that the medicine travels into their lungs. If the MDI – spacer combination is used incorrectly, the child can receive too little medication and have poorly controlled asthma.
Researchers in New York recently examined how caregivers of children with persistent asthma used a MDI and spacer. Using manufacturer’s instructions, research literature, and national guidelines, the researchers first identified ten critical steps for proper MDI-spacer use; of those ten, five were considered essential for delivering adequate amounts of medication. They then evaluated 169 caregivers (95% of them were mothers of the children) on how they administered asthma medication to their child. Only 1 caregiver performed all ten steps and only 6 were able to demonstrate the five essential steps. Although this study was performed in a minority urban population, we think it is important for all parents of children with asthma to speak with a pharmacist or a primary care provider to learn the proper technique to administer inhaled medicines.