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Proper Inhaler Cleaning

Something that I see consistently in retail pharmacy is customers bringing in their inhalers stating they seem to have medication in them but nothing is coming out. Usually after further inspection we can tell the inhaler is clogged, preventing it from spraying properly. The particular inhalers called Metered dose inhalers, such as Albuterol and Ventolin, contain a metal canister that is placed in a mouthpiece.  After placing your lips around the mouthpiece a propellant, rather than your own breath, pushes medication into the lungs. If the device is not cleaned the medication can build up and clog the device preventing it from spraying properly and not delivering the medication.

The first step to cleaning the inhaler is knowing which inhaler type you have. Besides the Metered dose inhalers there are also Dry Powdered Inhalers, like Advair Diskus or Flovent Diskus, which are breath activated. If wet or not cleaned, the consistency of the medication can be altered, changing the dose of medication inhaled. Soft mist inhalers, like Respimat, create an aerosol cloud of medication which is inhaled. If not cleaned these can clog and bacteria can build up.  

Each inhaler comes with specific instructions for cleaning. Follow these directions on how to clean and how often to clean to insure you are getting the medication. This will prevent clogs so you get consistent medication delivered preventing disease state flare ups. The device can also harbor bacteria or viruses if not maintained properly, potentially causing them to be inhaled into the lungs.

It is usually recommended to clean the inhaler once per week. In general, cleaning usually involves these steps:

1. Remove medication canister and cap from the mouthpiece. DO NOT wash the canister or immerse in water.

2. Run warm tap water through the top and bottom of the plastic mouthpiece for 30-60 seconds.  Allow to dry completely (overnight is recommended).

Dry Powder Inhalers - Most of these should not be washed with soap and water. The mouthpiece can be cleaned with a dry cloth.  

Soft Mist Inhalers - Such as Respimat, need to be cleaned once a week by wiping the mouthpiece (inside and outside) with a clean, damp cloth.

These simple and quick cleaning procedures can be so important and vital for proper consistency and dosing of the medication. Not doing so could result in worsening symptoms and a potential respiratory infection.

If you have additional questions on how to clean your inhaler, ask your Hometown Pharmacist for help today!

The views expressed in this article/blog post reflect those of the author and are intended for educational purposes only. This information should not take the place of medical advice. Hometown Pharmacy Partnerships (HPP) and any organization with a business relationship with HPP are not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based on the information presented in this article/blog post. Please check with your health care provider(s) prior to starting any new dietary, movement and/or wellness strategies.
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Posted by Carey Zigler
Carey Zigler
​Carey Zigler has worked at Hometown Pharmacy since May of 2018. She started as a part-time relief pharmacist helping in our Kewaskum & Waukesha locations before becoming a full time pharmacist at Hartland Hometown Pharmacy in Hartland, WI.

Carey grew up in Three Lakes, WI helping her father after school and on weekends at his independent pharmacy.  This is where she learned how valuable it is to have a relationship with your pharmacist.  Since graduating from Drake University in December 1995, Casey's entire career has been spent working in an independent pharmacy setting. She truly feels she makes a difference in her customers' health & well-being by getting to know them personally.

Carey has been married to her husband, Dan, for almost 24 years and they have 2 children in college, Alison and Nolan. When not helping her patients, Carey enjoys reading, spending time with her dogs, or traveling to places where she can snorkel, ski and hike!