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Your Child's Asthma: Inhaled Medicines

Your child will most likely have at least 1 inhaled asthma medicine. The medicine is delivered with an inhaler or a nebulizer. It's very important that inhalers and nebulizers are used correctly so that your child gets the correct amount of medicine. The best way to make sure the devices are used correctly is for you or your child to show the healthcare provider, nurse, or pharmacist how you use them. If needed, the provider, nurse, or pharmacist can then offer additional directions.

Inhalers with spacers

An inhaler discharges medicine in a fine spray. A spacer is a tube with a mouthpiece that can be attached to the inhaler. It helps more medicine get into the lungs. To use an inhaler with a spacer, follow the package directions. If you have questions about the right way to use the inhaler, ask your child’s healthcare provider.

Instead of a mouthpiece, a mask with a spacer is used for infants and toddlers. Your child's healthcare provider can show you the best way to use an inhaler with a mask.

Boy using metered-dose inhaler with spacer.

Dry powder inhalers

This type of inhaler releases medicine in tiny grains of powder. No spacer is needed. To use this type of inhaler, your child must be able to take a quick, deep breath. Read the package insert to learn how to correctly use this with them. Make sure to check the method with your child's healthcare provider.


A nebulizer turns medicine into a fine mist. The medicine is delivered through a mouthpiece or mask that fits on the face. Getting the full dose may take up to 15 minutes. It can sometimes take longer if 2 medicines are being used together. Nebulizers are sometimes used by infants or toddlers. They are often not needed if a child is able to use an inhaler with a spacer correctly.

Woman holding toddler boy on lap helping him breathe through mask with metered-dose inhaler.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.