Standard MDI

Using your inhaler (puffer) properly is important when you have asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

This short clip shows you how to use a standard metered dose inhaler (MDI), often called a puffer.


View or print these instructions as a one-page factsheet:

Using your Inhaler (Puffer) 



A standard puffer is used with many different medications. These include:

  • Airomir (salbutamol)
  • Alvesco (ciclesonide)
  • Asmol (salbutamol)
  • Combivent (ipratropium plus salbutamol)
  • Epaq (salbutamol)
  • Flixotide (fluticasone)
  • Flixotide Junior (fluticasone)
  • Intal (sodium cromoglycate)
  • Intal Forte (sodium cromoglycate)
  • Qvar (beclomethasone)
  • Seretide (salmeterol plus fluticasone)
  • Serevent (salmeterol)
  • Tilade (nedocromil sodium)
  • Ventolin (salbutamol)


Checklist of steps

  1. Remove cap
  2. Hold inhaler upright and shake well
  3. Breathe out gently
  4. Put mouthpiece between teeth without biting and close lips to form good seal
  5. Start to breathe in slowly through mouth and press down firmly on canister
  6. Continue to breathe in slowly and deeply
  7. Hold breath for about 5 seconds or as long as comfortable
  8. While holding breath, remove inhaler from mouth
  9. Breathe out gently away from mouthpiece
  10. If an extra dose is needed, wait 1 minute and then repeat steps 2 to 9
  11. Replace cap

Your inhaler will come with instructions in the package. Always check the package insert for any specific instructions.


Common problems

  • Holding the inhaler in the wrong position
  • Not breathing in at the same time as pressing the canister
  • Not breathing in deeply enough
  • Not holding breath for long enough
  • Taking several puffs without waiting or shaking the inhaler in between



  • Keep chin up and inhaler upright (not aimed at roof of mouth or tongue)
  • People using a standard inhaler for a corticosteroid preventer medication should also use a spacer
  • People with weak hands or osteoarthritis who have difficulty using a standard inhaler should ask their pharmacist about a Haleraid device


Getting the most out of your inhaler

Ask your doctor, pharmacist or asthma & respiratory educator to:

  • Explain how your inhaler should be used
  • Check you are using your inhaler properly
  • Tell you where to find the expiry date on your inhaler
  • Show you how to check if your inhaler is empty or nearly empty
  • Discuss any unwanted effects from your medication
  • Explain how to clean your inhaler and spacer (if you have one)


Using your inhaler: other inhaler types

  • Standard MDI (puffer)
  • Standard MDI (puffer) and spacer
  • Accuhaler
  • Autohaler
  • HandiHaler
  • Turbuhaler

Last reviewed June 2015