Spacers are clear plastic tubes with a mouthpiece or mask on one end and a hole for your inhaler at the other. A valve in the spacer mouthpiece opens as you breathe in and closes as you breathe out. A spacer makes your MDI (metered dose inhaler) easy to use and more effective for people of all ages. Use your spacer with preventer, reliever, symptom controller and combination medicines.
Spacers are available free of charge from your doctor or respiratory educator.
Advantages of using a spacer
Many adults and children are unable to use their metered dose inhaler effectively. The spacer reduces the need for perfect technique.
Spacers are designed to deliver up to twice the medication of an inhaler alone. 50% more medicine enters the lungs when a spacer is used.
Less medicine gets left in the mouth and throat, which reduces the side effects of hoarseness or thrush in your mouth from preventer medicine.
A spacer can help when you are short of breath and an inhaler by itself is difficult to use.
A spacer is a smaller, convenient alternative to a nebuliser.
Studies on adults and children show spacers work just as well as nebulisers in acute asthma.
Spacers with masks can help very young children inhale their medicine.
If you are unsure about how to use your spacer, ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. The following steps are a guide.
Remove the cap and shake the inhaler. Fit the inhaler into spacer opening (opposite the mouthpiece).
Put the spacer into your mouth ensuring that there are no gaps around the mouthpiece. Press the inhaler once only — one puff at a time into the spacer.
Breathe in slowly and deeply through the spacer mouthpiece and hold your breath for 5-10 seconds OR take 2-6 normal breaths keeping the spacer in your mouth all of the time – You can breathe in and out with the spacer still in your mouth as most spacers have small vents to allow your breath to escape rather than going into the spacer.
If you need more than one dose of medication, wait one minute and then repeat these steps for further doses making sure that you shake your inhaler between doses
Wash your spacer once a week with warm water and dishwashing liquid. Don’t rinse. Drip dry. This reduces the electrostatic charge so that the medicine does not stick to the spacer sides
Check for cracks. If used regularly your spacer may need to be replaced every 12-24 months.
Watch this video on how to use your spacer device
(Healthify NZ and Auckland District Health Board, 2018)
Watch this video about how to use a MDI and spacer
(Asthma Waikato, 2018)
If you are using a mask together with a spacer for your child place the mask on your child’s face, covering the mouth and nose ensuring there are no gaps. A mask is used for babies and infants that cannot seal their lips around the mouthpiece. Most children should be able to use the spacer without a mask by the age of 3 years. If you are using a mask with preventer medication wash the child’s face after use.
Wash your spacer once a week with warm water and dishwashing liquid. Check your spacer for cracks. If used regularly your spacer may need to replaced every 12-24 months.