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Top 10 Inhaler Mistakes Kids Make

This information has been reviewed and approved by Lisa C. Cicutto, PhD, RN (May 2023).

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Summary: Top 10 Inhaler Mistakes

Inhaled asthma medicine needs to reach the airways to be effective. Here are 10 common mistakes children make when using an inhaler and how to correct them.

1. Sitting down
Fix it: Standing allows the lungs to fully inhale and provides more power to exhale.

2. Using an empty inhaler
Fix it: Request a refill when the inhaler is half full so you never run out.

3. Not shaking or priming the inhaler
Fix it: Shake the inhaler canister 10 to 15 times for the medication to be ready to work and then release four test sprays. Now the medicine is ready to come out in a full dose. Prime again if not used for several weeks.

4. Not using a spacer with the inhaler
Fix it: A spacer helps deliver the medication to the airways instead of the mouth. Insert the inhaler into the spacer. Spray one puff of medicine and inhale slowly. Hold your breath for a count of 10, and exhale slowly.

5. Holding the head too far forward or backward
Fix it: The head needs to be in a neutral position, not too far back or too far forward, to help make a direct path for the medicine to reach the airways.

6. Tongue or teeth in the way of spacer/inhaler opening
Fix it: Put the spacer/inhaler in the mouth above the tongue, under the top teeth.

7. Mouth not tight enough around spacer/inhaler
Fix it: Close the lips around the spacer so air does not escape.

8. Directing the spacer/inhaler at tongue or roof of mouth
Fix it: Aim the spacer/inhaler at the back of the throat, so the medicine reaches the lungs.

9. Spraying several puffs of inhaler into spacer
Fix it: Only spray one puff of the inhaler at a time into the spacer, breathe out before you inhale. Hold your breath for a count of 10 then exhale. Repeat for the number of puffs the doctor prescribed.

10. Inhaling medicine too fast or too slowly, or through nose
Fix it: Remind your child that the inhaler is in his or her mouth, so it is the mouth that needs to inhale the medicine because it gets to the lungs faster. Inhale slowly. A whistle from the spacer means the inhalation is too fast.

Asthma Facts

  • 6.3 million children have asthma.
  • Leading chronic disease among children.
  • 1 out of 10 school-aged children have asthma.
  • Top cause of missed school days.


  • Follow instructions for using your inhaler.
  • Gargle and spit after inhaling a steroid.
  • Show your inhaler technique to your doctor.
  • Clean the inhaler and spacer according to instructions.