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Home » Medicine Usage Guides » Breath Actuated Inhalers

Breath Actuated Inhalers

A Breath Actuated Inhaler, or Autohaler, is a type of inhaler that has an L-shaped plastic outer case, and a metal canister inside it. It also has a lever at the top. This is an automatic device, so it automatically ‘fires’ the medication when it senses you breathing in through the mouthpiece.

Autohalers can be very useful to people who have trouble with the timing and coordination that is needed to use a puffer. With an Autohaler, you just need to be able to seal your lips around the mouthpiece and breathe in. The medication is held in the metal canister, along with propellant, which ‘fires’ the medication into your throat towards your lungs.

How to use an Autohaler

  1. Shake the Autohaler
  2. Remove the cap from the mouthpiece.  Hold the Autohaler in an upright position making sure you don’t block the vents at the base
  3. Push up the lever at the top of the device
  4. Breathe out and tilt your chin up a little.  Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and create a seal with your lip
  5. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your mouth.  The Autohaler will fire the medication automatically. Keep breathing in after you hear the puff of medication being released.
  6. Remove Autohaler, close your mouth and hold your breath for as long as is comfortable.  Breathe out slowly
  7. Push the lever down to its original position
  8. If you need to take more medication, repeat steps 1-7.  Remember to put the mouthpiece cap back on after you’ve finished

Instructional Video

You should get your inhaler technique checked regularly by your doctor, pharmacist or asthma educator.

How can I tell when my Autohaler is empty? 

The most accurate way to tell if your inhaler is empty is to count every single puff you use. On every inhaler there is a sticker that tells you how many doses (sometimes called “actuations”) there are inside.

If it is a medication that you take regularly (e.g. your preventer), then you will be able to work out when it will run out. Just divide the number of doses in the puffer by the number of puffs you take each day. E.g. if you take two puffs every morning and night, then a 120 dose puffer will last you 30 days. Make sure you have a spare puffer ready at least a week or two before yours runs out. This technique is a bit harder with a reliever puffer, because you don’t use it regularly.

To check if there’s still anything inside an Autohaler, you can shake it and try to feel or perhaps hear the medication moving inside; and you can also use the manual release. There’s a small sliding plastic plate on the bottom of the inhaler that you can use to spray a dose of medication without breathing in through the mouthpiece. First push up the lever at the top of the inhaler. Then gently slide the plate on the bottom of the inhaler. This will cause the inhaler to spray out a dose of medication, and you will hear a whooshing sound. If it is empty, you will only hear it click.

You should always have a spare Autohaler just in case.

How do I care for my Autohaler?

You should clean your Autohaler once a week so that it doesn’t get blocked.

  1. Unscrew the Autohaler, remove the canister and put it aside in a safe, dry place
  2. Wash the mouthpiece and the cap in warm running water for 30 seconds
  3. Shake off excess water and allow the pieces to air dry
  4. When they are dry, screw the Autohaler back together, remembering to always put the mouthpiece cap on. If you are having trouble screwing the device back together, check you have put the lever down

If you need your Autohaler before it is dry, shake off the excess water, put it together and spray 2 puffs as a test. Take your dose, and then wash the inhaler and let it dry as above.

Autohaler tips

  • Never stick a pin in the hole of the Autohaler to clean it out – this is likely to damage the inhaler. If you think the hole is blocked and you can’t clear it with the normal washing instructions above, you’ll need to get a new inhaler
  • If your Autohaler is new, or if you haven’t used it for two weeks or more, you should use the manual release plate (see ‘How do I know if my Autohaler is empty’ above) to spray a few puffs into the air before using it
  • You should try to avoid your Autohaler getting too hot or too cold. If your inhaler is very cold, it may not work properly. Remove the metal canister and warm it in your hands for a few minutes before you use it. To avoid it getting too hot, don’t leave it in your car on a hot day, and try to store it in the shade wherever possible when temperatures are high and you are outdoors. Don’t put it in the fridge or esky, as it shouldn’t be in wet conditions either

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