Spacers

Easy-to-read medicine information about spacers – what they are and how to use them.

What is a spacer?

Spacers are clear plastic tubes with a mouthpiece or mask on one end and a hole for your inhaler at the other. A valve in the spacer mouthpiece opens as you breathe in and closes as you breathe out. A spacer makes your MDI (metered dose inhaler) easy to use and more effective for people of all ages. Use your spacer with preventer, reliever, symptom controller and combination medicines.

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Spacers can be obtained for free from your doctor's clinic.

How does a spacer help?

  • Many adults and children are unable to use their metered dose inhaler effectively. The spacer reduces the need for perfect technique.
  • 50% more medicine enters the lungs when a spacer is used.
  • Less medicine gets left in the mouth and throat, which reduces the side effects of hoarseness or thrush in your mouth from preventer medicine.
  • A spacer can help when you are short of breath and an inhaler by itself is difficult to use
  • A spacer is a smaller, convenient alternative to a nebuliser.
  • Studies on adults and children show spacers work just as well as nebulisers in acute asthma.
  • Spacers with masks can help very young children inhale their medicine.

Priming

Wash your spacer before you use it for the first time. This is called 'priming'. It reduces static electricity inside your spacer so that the medicine does not stick to the sides of the spacer. OR, you can squeeze 10 puffs of your reliever inhaler into the spacer to prime it.

How to use your spacer

  • Shake the inhaler well (holding it upright).
  • Fit the inhaler into the opening at the end of the spacer.
  • Seal lips firmly around the mouthpiece (or place the mask so it seals around the nose and mouth).
  • Large volume spacers need to be tilted upwards at a 45 degree angle to ensure the valve works properly.
  • Press the inhaler once only.
  • Take 1-6 slow breaths in and out through your mouth. Do not remove the spacer from your mouth between breaths.
  • Remove the spacer from your mouth.
  • Repeat these steps for further doses.
  • Rinse mouth and spit out water or clean teeth after using a corticosteroid preventer.

How to use a spacer and a mask for giving asthma medicines

Please note, the following video was developed following Australian guidelines. In New Zealand, the recommended ratio is 1 puff to every 5 breaths.


Video by Asthma Australia (44 seconds) 

Regular cleaning

After priming, wash your spacer once per week (or more often if using Vicrom or Tilade). Replace spacers every six months if they are used regularly.

How to clean a spacer

  • Wash the spacer with warm water and dishwashing liquid.
  • Do not rinse.
  • Drip dry.