Using a spacer with a puffer makes it easier to take the medicine, and also gets more of the medicine into the lungs so it works better. Generally, using a spacer with a puffer is much better than using a puffer alone.
- All children should use a spacer to take their medicine, for both reliever and preventer puffers.
- Adults and adolescents are recommended to always use a spacer with their preventer puffer, though they can use their reliever puffer with or without a spacer.
A spacer is a plastic container with a mouthpiece (or mask for very young children) at one end and a hole for the inhaler at the other. The medicine is ‘fired’ from the puffer into the spacer and is then inhaled.
Note: Spacers can only be used with puffers
Did you know? Using a spacer with your reliever medicine in an asthma flare-up is as effective as or even better than using a nebuliser; and it’s faster and easier. You’ll probably have fewer side effects too.
How to use a spacer
There are two techniques for using a spacer and both work well.
Deep breath technique – most common for adults in daily use
Four breath technique – used by children or anyone when breathless
Young children need to use a mask with their spacer.
Make sure you only put one puff of medicine into your spacer at a time. If you put more than one puff in, the medicine sticks together and then drops to the bottom of the spacer before you have time to breathe it in.
You can get a spacer from your local pharmacy, usually from around $15. There are different types of spacers, so you can choose which one suits you best. Some of them are ‘disposable’ which means they are made from plastic or paper, only last a short time and cannot be cleaned. They work well, but do not use them for any longer than advised by the manufacturer.
Make sure you wash your spacer before you use it, and about every month (or when you’ve been unwell). To clean it, you need to take it apart, wash it in warm water with dishwashing detergent. Don’t rinse the bubbles off, just let it air dry- don’t wipe it or you might create static that makes the medicine stick to the sides.
Replace your spacer about every 12 months if you use it every day. If it breaks or cracks, get a new one straight away.
What about nebulisers?
A nebuliser is a machine that converts liquid medicine into a fine mist that can then be inhaled. They’re not used much any more, because we have easier, faster and less expensive ways to take the medications. It also takes a lot of work to keep them clean and working. They are sometimes used in hospital or ambulances, or for people who have problems with their hands. Even when you’re having a flare-up, using a spacer with your reliever medicine is as effective as or even better than using a nebuliser; and it’s faster and easier.
OATSIH-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services can purchase low cost spacers through the Asthma Spacer Ordering System for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
Community Spacers and Asthma Emergency Kits
Some places will have a spacer ready just in case there is an asthma emergency. This is common in schools, children’s services and some sporting clubs or workplaces.
Asthma Australia recommends that all spacers should be used by one person only. This means that once a spacer has been used, it should be given to the person who used it, or thrown away. They should not be washed and reused for another person. Spare spacers should always be available to restock the Asthma Emergency Kit.
The Asthma Spacer Ordering System (ASOS) provides low cost spacers and masks to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
This program is able to operate because suppliers provide low cost products and the Asthma Foundations cover staff costs. There is no profit margin in the program. The ASOS program is managed by Asthma Australia, with orders and deliveries undertaken by Asthma Foundation SA.
Additional free information and resources are also available.
For information about the ASOS program contact Asthma Foundation SA:
P 08 8238 9300
F 08 8238 9303