Many people are used to the older form of inhalers, called metered dose inhalers (MDIs). These often work by pressing down on the inhaler top, which shoots a liquid amount of the medicine into the lungs, when inhalation occurs at the same time. They can be a little hard to use, and not all people have the best luck with these. The profile of asthma inhalers is certainly changing, which will please some and annoy others, and there are now many medications that come in the form of a dry powder inhaler or DPI. These don’t require the same level of coordination, though not everyone is expert at using them.
The principal difference between a dry powder inhaler and a metered dose inhaler is that there is no “press/squirt/inhale” action. Instead, powder is kept in individual chambers in extremely small amounts. Usually turning the inhaler chamber or clicking a piece on the inhaler frees up the medicine to be inhaled directly into the lungs, in what is usually described as a strong inhalation that must last several seconds. The breath is often held for a few more seconds after the medicine is taken.
The actual inhalation of breath causes the powder to turn into extremely fine particles that can easily reach the lungs and that won’t produce any type of coughing. Worrying about potential coughing from inhaling powder is often a concern, and it’s easy to see why. A person who accidentally inhales a bit of powdered sugar for instance is likely to remember acute coughing fits thereafter. They should be assured that the chemical processes turning asthma medicine into a powdered form are much more advanced, causing very fine powdered medicine in tiny doses to be effective.
Still, a dry powder inhaler may not be appropriate for everyone. Presently they are most marketed for adults and older children. Very young children might not produce the inhalation necessary to receive all medication needed, and this could also be a concern for those people in the midst of an asthma attack, or with extremely weak breath.
The wave of the future, though, does seem to include the introduction of many dry powder inhaler types. More and more medicines used for things like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other breathing conditions are now being manufactured in dry form. Doctors can of course, recommend these to patients and demonstrate their use. There are also a number of websites offered by respected medical sources that can suggest the best ways to use these a dry powder inhaler; doctor’s advice is still the best source, however. On a final note patients need to pay particular attention to directions on storage of these inhalers, as any exposure to damp may cause damage to the medication.