What Is a Dry Powdered Inhaler?

DPIs Use Your Own Breath To Deliver Meds To Your Lungs

Advair Diskus
Advair Diskus. Photo © GlaxoSmithKline

Dry powdered inhalers or DPIs utilize your own breath to deliver meds into your lungs rather than a propellant. The medication in DPIs is not an aerosol but is contained in a pill or capsule that is punctured and inhaled.

DPIs have a couple of limitations. While they do not need a propellant, young children and asthmatics suffering an acute attack may not be able to produce a deep enough breath to use a DPI effectively.

DPIs have been effectively used in children over the age of 5.

How Many Different Types Of Inhalers Are There?

In addition to DPIs there are two other types of devices that deliver asthma medication to your lungs:

  1. Nebulizer. A nebulizer is an electrical device that either passes air through a liquid or vibrates in order to aerosolize asthma medication to be inhaled. While there are some portable nebulizers, these devices are not nearly as convenient or portable as most inhalers.
  2. Metered dose inhaler or MDI. These devices are portable, hand-held canisters that use a pressurized liquid gas, or propellant, to deliver doses of your asthma medication.

There Are Many DPIs

Many of the DPIs are proprietary and instructions will be slightly different so you will need to check with your doctor, asthma educator or pharmacist to make sure you are using the correct technique. Different brands of DPIs include:

  • Aerolizer
  • Diskus
  • Ellipta
  • Flexhaler
  • Handihaler
  • Neohaler
  • Pressair
  • Rotahaler
  • Turbuhaler
  • Twisthaler

General Instructions For Using A Dry Powdered Inhaler

  1. Open the inhaler. Most DPIs are slightly different. Make sure you follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully as opening the inhaler is often how the medication is prepared for inhalation in inhalers that do not require you to place the dose in the device. Not following instructions may lead to decreased medication being delivered to your lungs.
  1. Open the mouthpiece. With devices that are single use and require you to place a capsule into a holding chamber, you can look to see if pressing the buttons on the side appropriately activates the spikes that will pierce the medication.
  2. Remove capsule from foil and place it in the holding chamber. Do not force the capsule down the mouthpiece. After placing the capsule in the holding chamber, close the mouthpiece.
  3. Spike the capsule by pressing the buttons on the side. Make sure the inhaler is being held in the appropriate manner before doing this. Improper technique may result in lost medication so be sure to review the packaging or discuss with your healthcare provider.
  4. Breathe out before inhaling the medication. Turn your head away and do not breathe into the device. Failing to follow this instruction may result in decreased medication to your lungs.
  5. Inhale medication. Upon full exhalation, place the DPI mouthpiece into your mouth with a good seal between your lips. Take a fast, steady and deep breathe in allowing your lungs to completely fill. Count to 10 slowly while holding your breath.
  1. Close the inhaler and replace the cap.
  2. Repeat steps 1–7 if you need more than one dose.
  3. Rinse your mouth out with water, gargle for a few seconds and spit out the water.

Side Effects Specific To DPIs

While most of the side effects of inhaled steroids are due to the drugs and not the inhalers per se, there is some concern that DPIs may lead to increased cavities in children. As a result, making sure that you adhere to rinsing after use is essential.

Caring for your DPI

  • Keep your dry powder inhaler in a dry place at room temperature.
  • Never place the DPI in water.
  • Never shake or breathe into the DPI.
  • Never use a spacer device with your DPI.
  • When taking dry powder inhalers, you may not taste, smell, or feel the dry powder. This experience may be different from what you are used to. As long as you are following the directions, you will get your full dose of medication.
  • If you are using a corticosteroid medication, rinse your mouth and gargle after using the DPI. Do not swallow.

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Sources

  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America . Dry Powder Inhalers
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma 

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