A new report from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has found that the majority of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are not using their inhalers correctly and, therefore, are not obtaining the expected level of benefit from their medication, leading to an increased risk of life-threatening complications.
Based on the findings of their study which reviewed inhaler use among 244 people with COPD, the researchers called for professionals to take every opportunity to check inhaler technique and provide education. The study showed that two-thirds of participants were not using their inhaler correctly most of the time and those in this group were suffering more exacerbations of their condition.
Read on to learn about the steps you can take to check that those in your care are getting the optimum benefit from their inhalers.
Many older people in care settings experience difficulties in managing their inhalers effectively due to factors such as poor dexterity, memory problems and lack of education and advice on effective technique. Even for those who have inhalers administered by a staff member, there may be a risk that the person’s technique is less than effective which may also impact on the wellbeing of the person with COPD.
By ensuring that service users who self-medicate, as well as staff with responsibility for administering inhalers, all work to a standard technique which is taught and monitored, you can reduce the risk of respiratory problems for those in your care avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and life-threatening complications.
5 Steps to Ensure Effective Inhaler Technique
- Always breathe in first: By doing so, the person creates more space in their airways for the next breath, allowing a longer and deeper breath which enables the medication to reach the small spaces inside the lungs more effectively.
- Encourage breath holding: Encourage the person to hold their breath after inhaling, if possible for 10 seconds. This will keep the airways still and allow more time for the medication to reach the lungs.
- Shake the inhaler: ‘Press and breathe’-type inhalers must always be shaken beforehand to make sure that the medicine and propellant are properly mixed and the correct dose is delivered.
- Focus on timing: It is important that the person times their breath to coincide with the release of the medication from the inhaler. Breathing too early will mean that only part of the breath will be available to inhale the dose into the lungs.
- Space the doses: You should allow at least 30–60 seconds between each dose, once again remembering to shake the inhaler to ensure the medicine id properly mixed.