Poor Inhaler Technique Could Put Your Service Users at Risk This Winter

Cold weather and the increased risk of colds and flu means that winter is the time of year when your service users with chronic respiratory conditions are at greatest risk of becoming unwell. Steps such as staying warm, having a flu vaccination and avoiding contact with people displaying cold symptoms can all help reduce the risk but for those who rely on inhalers, using the right technique can make the difference between staying well and battling life-threatening respiratory problems.

A study by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that up to two-thirds of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were failing to use their inhalers effectively, meaning that many users fail to obtain the optimum benefit from their medication. As a result of the study, which examined inhaler technique amongst 244 people, the researchers have encouraged care professionals to take every opportunity to check inhaler technique and offer advice in their correct use when appropriate.

Read on to learn about the steps you can take to promote effective inhaler technique and help your service users stay well this winter.

Inhalers

Factors such as poor dexterity, memory problems and lack of advice on effective technique mean that older people in care settings are at particular risk of failing to manage their inhalers effectively. Even amongst those who receive assistance, a lack of knowledge on behalf of the staff member can mean a poor technique is used which could have a serious impact on the health of the person with COPD.

Ensuring that both service users and staff all follow the same standard technique which is taught and monitored, can reduce the risk of respiratory problems for those in your care, which in turn, can reduce avoidable complications

5 Steps to Effective Inhaler Technique to Keep Your Service Users Well This Winter 

  1. Shake the inhaler: ‘Press and breathe’ type inhalers must always be shaken before use to make sure that the contents are properly mixed, and the correct dose is delivered.
  2. Exhale: Breathing out creates more space in the air passages, allowing a longer and deeper inhalation. This enables the medication to reach the small spaces inside the lungs more effectively.
  3. Get the timing right: It’s important for the user to time their breath to coincide with the release of the medication from the inhaler. Taking the breath too early means that only part of it will be used to inhale the medication and the full dose will not be obtained.
  4. Hold the breath: Encourage the user to hold their breath for 10 seconds, if possible, after each inhalation. This will help to keep the air passages still and allow time for the medication to reach the lungs.
  5. Space the doses: Ensure a gap of at least 30-60 seconds between each dose to allow time for the user to recover and the dose to reach its intended destination. Remember also to shake the inhaler after each dose to ensure the medicine is properly mixed.

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