How To Use a Dry Powder Inhaler, Step by Step, Hints, and Tips

Posted November 11, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

It might sound like an easy task but breathing in a medication can actually be a somewhat counterintuitive action for many people. So, it helps to have a good guide on how to use a dry powder inhaler.

Here, we’ve outlined a definitive guide on using a dry powder inhaler, so you can build up confidence in using it. But first, here’s the quick summary of how to use it, then we’ll get into some more details.

How to use a dry powder inhaler – instructions:

  • Open the inhaler lid
  • Load – If it’s a single dose dry powder inhaler (DPI), put a capsule inside
  • Breathe out completely away from the inhaler
  • Place the mouthpiece inside your mouth and close your lips around it tightly
  • Deeply inhale through your mouth for 2-3 seconds and hold your breath for 10 seconds
  • Reload another dose if needed 

That is the quick guide to using a dry powder inhaler, but there are other details you should be familiar with.

Why it’s Important to Know How to Use a Dry Powder Inhaler

How To Use a Dry Powder Inhaler

A dry powder inhaler delivers medication into the lungs as a very fine powder. Inhaling medicines allows the ingredients in the drug to start working faster than if you were to take that same medication in pill form.

Those that struggle with asthma often need immediate relief. Thus, knowing how to use a dry powder inhaler properly is crucial to ensure the medication is delivered in a way that provides relief.

It is important to mention here that there are two main types of inhalers. Here is a general overview for you.

Two Types of Inhalers

There are two types of inhalers – DPI (Dry Powder Inhalers) and MDI (Metered Dose Inhalers).

Of these two, DPI’s tend to be more challenging because its breath activated and has several other processes that need to be done correctly when using them.

And knowing how to use them is important not just to be able to get some medication into your lungs, but to be able to get the right dose that your health condition requires.

In other words, failing to use a dry powder inhaler properly means the medications could be less effective for your health condition.

Things to Do Before Using a Dry Powder Inhaler 

A dry powder is designed to breathe medications into your lungs for easy depositing. One main element that decides how effectively you can use or how effectively your dry powder inhaler can treat your health condition comes from your inhaling capacity.

So, adults and seniors that have trouble taking deep breaths may not benefit greatly from using a dry powder inhaler.

Dry powder inhalers come in different sizes and shapes, and how they work and use them may differ. The brand of dry powder inhaler you are prescribed will depend on what your doctor recommends for you.

The best thing to do is to ask your doctor how to use the inhaler prescribed to you and ask any other questions you may have. Doing this can be the best possible way for you to know how to use your dry powder inhaler.

Your doctor will also be able to help provide tricks and tips on how to use this device for maximum effect, depending on the problems you face and so on. 

The final thing you can do is read the instruction of the package or the label that comes with the inhaler.

This will provide a clear breakdown of how to use your dry powder inhaler. If you fill your prescription from the pharmacy, feel free to ask your pharmacist on how to use the inhaler. 

With that said, below is some further information and breakdown of how you should use your dry powder inhaler.

How to Use a Dry Powder Inhaler 

As we mentioned, there are two types of dry powder inhalers, namely single-dose DPI’s and Multi-dose DPI’s. How you use them can differ.

In general, below are the steps on how to use a DPI.

1. Opening

  • Open the inhaler and take off the cover or the inhaler’s mouthpiece or the cap. 
  • Check inside the inhaler and the mouthpiece and check for any foreign substances. Doing this is important for hygiene purposes, and prevents unwanted allergies, reactions, and so on. 

2. Loading the Dose

  • Load your designated dose of medication. 
  • If you’re using a single-dose inhaler, then you’ll need to take a pill out of a package and put it into the inhaler pill setting. After the pill is set inside the inhaler, you need to push one or a few buttons to prick and create holes in the pills. Doing this is necessary for the powder inside that capsule to come out when you inhale through the inhaler. 
  • For a multi-dose inhaler, as the name suggests, there are multiple doses. This means that you don’t have to load after each dose. All you have to do is load another dose by sliding a lever or twisting some buttons or a part specified in the inhaler for loading another dose.

3. Positioning 

  • Hold and position your inhaler exactly as your doctor or pharmacist showed you – or how it’s directed in the packaging. 
  • Depending on your inhaler, some inhalers will need to be positioned and held upright, whereas some need to be horizontal. In general, multi-dose DPI’s should be positioned horizontally.
  • When positioning, the mouthpiece should be in-between your lips. 

4. Inhaling 

  • Breathe in quickly, strongly, deeply, and as steadily as you can. This should be done for as long as you feel you can breathe in the medications in the capsule.
  • After inhaling, remove the mouthpiece from the mouth and hold your breath for 5-10 seconds. 
  • Then breathe out steadily. 
  • Do not breathe out into the inhaler.

5. Reloading

  • If you are prescribed to take two puffs, reprime your inhaler – if it’s a multi-dose DPI. If it’s a single-dose inhaler, open the inhaler, throw out the used capsule, and replace it with a new capsule and prime for a second puff.
  • Repeat if more puffs are needed.
  • Leave a break of one minute before each puff.
  • Follow the same steps of inhaling for each extra puff.

6. Checking and Rinsing

  • Check if your capsule is empty after your puff or before reloading for another puff. So if you notice any powder remaining, you may need to inhale again.
  • Rinse your mouth with water, gargle, and spit out the water. Do not swallow the rinsed water. 
  • After using the inhaler, store your inhaler in a cool, dry place.

How Do I Know if My Multi-Dose Dry Powder Inhaler is Empty After Using?

How To Use a Dry Powder Inhaler

Many multi-dose dry powder inhalers come with a built-in dose counter. This dose-counter keeps count of the doses left in your inhaler.

When the counter reads zero, it means the medications are exhausted. Make sure you have another inhaler handy before the counter reads zero.

However, if your multi-dose dry powder inhaler doesn’t have an in-built counter, you will need to keep track of your inhaler count.

Either mentally or keep a note on the number of doses you take. By doing this, you’ll develop a good gauge on when your inhaler will be empty and will need a refill.

How to Clean My Dry Powder Inhaler After Using 

Never wash your dry powder inhaler after using or put it under-water. The only way to do it is to wipe using a clean wet cloth or a wipe. Usually, it’s the mouthpiece that you will need to clean often.


Using an inhaler does require some getting used to. We hope this has provided you with a helpful guide, as well as some confidence in how to use a dry powder inhaler.

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