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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Spacer time

 It's spacer time! (Not to be confused with Hammer time.....yes I remember the MC Hammer song from the 90's..... ) And no, I did NOT own a pair of parachute pants!

Spacers are one of those things that are SO important to use with an inhaler, but many people don't know about them. In fact, when I help families learn about asthma, the #1 thing that helps them is to learn about spacers. I have had so many people tell me that they seem to feel better just by adding a spacer to their inhaler.
What is a spacer?

As you can see from the picture above, it's a tube like device that attaches to your inhaler. Some are also called "holding chambers" because they "hold" the medicine with a one way valve until you inhale it. 

So, why use one? Well, I know this is hard to read, but this slide is from a training I attended. It was from a respiratory therapist showing how fast the spray comes out of an inhaler. He showed that it came out at 156-221 miles per hour. Woah!!!

That would make it almost impossible to suck the medicine down into your lungs fast enough. Asthma Doc told me that if I just use an inhaler, most of the medicine will just hit the back of my throat, instead of being sucked down into the lungs. Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

"Releasing the medication into the spacer gives you time to inhale more slowly, decreasing the amount of medicine that's left on the back of your throat and increasing the amount that reaches your lungs."
If you are having an asthma attack, you really need that medicine - all of it. I don't want it on the back of my throat, I want it in my lungs!

So, as you can see, we use spacers. There are several different kinds (some have whistles that will let you know if you are sucking the medicine out too fast.)

Some of mine are REALLY old (the middle spacer in the photo.) The Vortex spacer on the right lets me pull the end off and store my inhaler inside so it doesn't take up as much space in my purse.

I have noticed that most primary care doctors and pediatricians don't prescribe spacers. But asthma specialists do.

If you don't have one, ask your doctor for a prescription. Insurance should pay for it. But, in our case, our insurance is wacky and says we can only have "one per lifetime". Are they kidding? It's made of plastic!

But, we can have Asthma Doc write a prescription, and then we can get one at the pharmacy, but just pay for it ourselves. (My last spacer was about $20.)

If you don't have a spacer, get one and try it and see if you can tell a difference.

Leave comments here if it seems to work better for you!


  1. I am one of the few who doesn't use spacers. I have mastered the open mouth technique. My allergist doesn't think they are necessary. I mostly just use nebulizers, inhalers are a fallback

    1. I can't walk and chew gum at the same time - so for me, it helps to use a spacer.

      I'm glad you found what works for you! :)