What is an asthma spacer?

An asthma spacer is a holding chamber that makes it easier to get asthma medication into your lungs. Usually made of clear plastic, it has a mouthpiece or mask at one end and a hole for an inhaler at the other.

Asthma spacers come in different types: large volume spacers which are oval-shaped, and small volume spacers that are shaped like a tube. Large volume spacers can be used by adults and children over five years of age, while children under five years of age must use small volume spacers. However, these smaller spacers can also be used by older children or adults as they are more convenient to carry around. Spacers usually have a mouthpiece, but children under two years of age need a mask attachment.

Why use an asthma spacer?

More medication gets into your lungs when you use a spacer. If you use your inhaler without a spacer, more of the medication is left in your mouth and throat. For preventers that contain steroids, this can lead to more side effects such as oral thrush.

Using a spacer also alleviates the need to coordinate breathing in and pressing your puffer. This is an advantage if using it as an emergency treatment, where breathlessness often impedes this coordination. An inhaler and spacer has been shown to be more effective than a nebuliser in treating acute asthma.

 

Nebuliser

A device for administering medications via a spray that is inhaled.

Oral thrush

A yeast infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus. Candida is naturally found in small amounts in the mouth, however it can overgrow and cause pain, redness and swelling of the oral tissues. Common in denture wearers, oral thrush can be treated with antifungal medications.

Steroids

A class of chemical substances that have a certain complex of carbon particles. The body produces several types of steroids naturally and artificially-produced steroids are used as medications.

A step-by-step guide to using an asthma inhaler

1.   Put the spacer together as directed by the instructions;

2.   Remove the cap on the puffer;

3.   After shaking the puffer, insert it into the end of the spacer;

4.   Place the mouthpiece between your teeth and close your lips around it. Ensure there are no gaps around the mouthpiece. For young children, place the mask to cover your child's nose and mouth so that a good seal is achieved;

5.   Hold the spacer horizontally;

6.   Breathe out gently;

7.   Press the puffer once to release the medication into the spacer;

8.   Slowly take a deep breath in, hold for a few seconds and then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this 4-5 times, and;

9.   Repeat steps 4-8 until you have taken the number of puffs prescribed by your doctor.

Care of your asthma spacer

Your spacer should be cleaned at least once a month. Use warm, soapy water, do not rinse after cleaning and let it drip dry.