Information paper

Inhaler Technique for People with Asthma or COPD

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Incorrect technique when taking inhaled medications frequently prevents patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from receiving the maximal benefit from their medications.

Key points

  • All patients need individualised, repeated hands-on training in correct inhaler use
  • Most patients with asthma or COPD do not use their inhalers properly, and most have not had their technique checked or corrected by a health professional
  • Incorrect inhaler technique increases the risk of severe flare-ups and hospitalisation for people with asthma or COPD
  • Poor asthma symptom control is often due to poor technique
  • Checking inhaler technique can improve asthma management
  • Inhaler technique should always be checked before considering dose escalation or add-on therapy
  • Incorrect inhaler technique increases the risk of side-effects like dysphonia and oral thrush
  • The steps for using an inhaler device correctly differ between brands


This information paper was prepared in consultation with the following health professionals:

  • Associate Professor Sinthia Bosnic-Anticevich, pharmacist
  • Dr Tim Foo, general practitioner
  • Clinical Associate Professor Helen Reddel, respiratory physician
  • Ms Judi Wicking, asthma and respiratory educator

Recommended citation

National Asthma Council Australia. 
Inhaler technique for people with asthma or COPD. 
National Asthma Council Australia, Melbourne, 2016

Erratum (January 2017)

A production error was identified after this information paper was printed. The error has been corrected in the online version of the resources. If you have a printed version, please amend your copy accordingly.

In Table 1 (page3), the Mist Inhaler Striverdi Respimat (olodaterol) has been removed as this product is not available in Australia.

Checklist for MDI plus spacer (page 8), instruction of ‘while holding breath’ has been removed as this was a typographical error.

How-To Video Library

Our library of How-To videos includes clips showing the correct use of various asthma and COPD inhalers. There are also clips showing correct use of allergy nasal sprays. 


Although all care has been taken, this information paper is a general guide only, which is not intended to be a substitute for assessment of appropriate courses of treatment on a case-by-case basis. The National Asthma Council Australia expressly disclaims all responsibility (including negligence) for any loss, damage or personal injury resulting from reliance on the information contained.

© 2016

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