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Home » Medicine Usage Guides » Dry Powder Inhalers

Dry Powder Inhalers

A dry powder inhaler (DPI) is a handheld device that has medicine inside. The medicine is in a dry powder form instead of a mist. People use a DPI to breathe in (inhale) their medicine so that it goes directly into their lungs. There are many different types of DPIs. Generally, a DPI has three parts, which are a container, a valve, and an actuator, or mouthpiece. Your DPI may look like a flat round disk, like a canister (tube), or it may have another shape. Your DPI may hold one, or many doses of medicine. If it holds only one dose, you will need to load your DPI with medicine each time you use it. Always follow the directions that came with your DPI to load and use it. Medicine may be given with a DPI to treat asthma and other breathing problems. There are several different medicines that may be used with a DPI. Your caregiver will select the best medicine for you.

Certain people may not be able to use a DPI because they cannot inhale their dose fast or deep enough, or because of other reasons. Children under five years old, and people with severe (very bad) asthma including a person having a sudden (acute) asthma attack may not be able to use a DPI.

How Do I Prime My DPI?

If you have a new DPI, you may need to prime it before using it for the first time. To prime means to get it ready to be used. Each type of DPI has its own set of instructions. Follow your DPI instructions, and your caregiver’s directions for how to prime your DPI correctly.

Using Your DPI:

Always follow the directions for your DPI, and your caregivers instructions for how to use the DPI. When using your DPI, the following are general directions that may be helpful:

  1. Remove the cover or cap from your DPI.
  2. Load a dose of medicine. Your DPI may have a lever (button) that you slide or a piece that twists until you hear it click. Your DPI may have an opening that you push medicine into before using.
  3. Turn your head to the side and breathe out (exhale) as much air as you can.Your lungs should be as empty as possible right before you breathe in your medicine.
  4. Put your mouth on the DPI. Close your lips firmly around the DPI so that no air or medicine can come out the sides.
  5. Using only your mouth, breathe in very deep and very fast. Continue breathing in until your lungs feel completely full of air. DPIs are “breath-activated”. This means that breathing in fast and deep makes the right dose of medicine come out of the DPI. Then the medicine goes directly into your lungs.
  6. Take your mouth off the DPI and hold your breath for 10 seconds or longer. This will hold the medicine inside your airways and lungs and help you breathe easier.
  7. Slowly breathe out.
  8. Repeat the above steps until you have taken the number of doses your caregiver told you to take. You get one dose (puff) of medicine each time you breathe from a DPI. Your caregiver may tell you to take more than one dose. Wait at least one minute between each dose.
  9. Put the cover or cap back on your DPI. This helps to keep dirt and moisture (wetness) out of the DPI. Do not store your DPI in a bathroom or other places where there is moisture. Moisture or dirt may cause your DPI to clog up or stop working correctly.

Instructional Video

Should I Be Able to See the Dry Powder While Using My DPI?

No. You should not see dry powder coming from your mouth or nose while using your DPI. If you do, you are not using your DPI the right way. When this happens, you may not be getting the right dose of your medicine. For each dose, place your lips firmly on the DPI and make sure your tongue is not in the way. If you are having trouble using your DPI, talk to your caregiver.

How Will I Know if I Breathed In Enough Medicine?

Most people can taste or feel the medicine going in. If you are not sure if you received any medicine, check the indicator (meter) on the PDI to see if there are any doses left. You can also check the expiration date (end date) of the medicine. This should be printed on the box it came in. If you are not sure that you received any medicine, do not take extra doses. Call your caregiver. Continue to use the PDI as directed until you can speak with or meet with your caregiver.

Should I Clean My Mouth After Using My DPI?

  • Yes. Rinse out your mouth after you use your DPI. Sip some water, swish it around your mouth, then spit it out. This helps to remove any powder left in your mouth. It may also help keep you from getting a mouth infection (in-FEK-shun).
  • If you have a child who uses a DPI, have him rinse his mouth after using the DPI. Give him water or a fluoride mouthwash to swish in his mouth. He may also chew sugarless gum after using the DPI if this is OK with his caregiver. It is important that your child brushes his teeth at least two times each day with fluoride toothpaste. However, do not let your child brush his teeth as a way to clean his mouth after using a DPI. Have him rinse his mouth first to get rid of any left over powder, then he can brush his teeth later.

What Else Should I Know About My DPI?

  • Clean your DPI. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away powder from the DPI mouthpiece. Do not use water to clean your DPI unless your caregiver or DPI instructions say you can.
  • Do not use a spacer. A spacer is a tube that connects to metered-dose inhalers. This attachment is not needed when using a DPI.
  • Never blow air into your DPI. The moisture in your breath can clog or harm the DPI and cause it to stop working.
  • Throw away empty multi-use DPIs. If you have a DPI that had many doses in it, throw it away when it is empty. This type of DPI should have a dose indicator on the side or top. A dose indicator shows a number that tells you how many doses you have left. The indicator may have a colored zone on it to warn you when the medicine is almost gone. Make sure you have a new DPI ready to start using a few days before the old one is empty.

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