Some babies or children who need asthma medicine start out using
. Others are given an
and face mask. Some older kids use only an inhaler, with no spacer
attached. But which is the best way to deliver asthma medicine to
Studies show that the device your child uses really doesn't
matter, as long as it's used properly. All methods work just as
well when the correct technique is used.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each type of device.
Inhalers are smaller and require no power source. And because they
deliver the medicine much more quickly than a nebulizer, they may
be preferred by some parents.
The age of the child also makes a difference in how an inhaler
is used. Metered dose inhalers (MDI) are the most widely used, but
they require coordination. The child must be able to activate the
device and breathe in at the same time. This can be a bit tough and
can generally only be mastered by older kids. That's why many
doctors recommend attaching the metered dose inhaler to a
Almost anyone (from infants to the elderly) can use a metered
dose inhaler when it's attached to a spacer. Some experts say
that everyone, even adults, would benefit by using a spacer with
their metered dose inhaler.
Dry powder inhalers (DPI) are easier to use than metered dose
inhalers because they don't require coordination. The force of
the child's inhaled breath delivers the aerosolized powder into
the lungs. Most children older than 5 or 6 years are able to use a
dry powder inhaler, although the child must be able to inhale
quickly and strongly.
However, some people may feel like they get a better treatment
from a nebulizer because they can see and feel the mist coming from
Your child's doctor will work with you and your child to
decide which device is most appropriate. This decision will be
based not only on your child's age and abilities, but also on
what type of medication is needed. Your child may try several
different types of devices before you find the right one.
Used properly, though, any device will be effective. Talk with
your child's doctor if you have any questions, especially if
you're concerned that your child isn't getting the proper
dose of medicine.
Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: May 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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