This post was coauthored by Jane Martin, RT and Kristen Szymonik BS, RRT, AE-C
Happy February! Throughout this month the COPD Foundation will be talking about how you can get the most from your COPD therapies. You might be thinking, “Okay, I take my medications— inhalers and/or nebulizers— as prescribed, so what's the big deal?” Well, it's great that you're doing that, but is it optimal use? In other words, are you getting the best possible benefit from your inhaled COPD medications? And do you understand how each medication works to help you breathe easier? Today on the Wednesday Check in we'll look at some surprising statistics on inhaler use and how you can make sure you're using proper technique. We'll touch on the importance of understanding how your medications work and go over a range of benefits you can get from optimal use of your inhaled medications.
Research Study on Inhaler
In a study on inhaler technique, researchers looked at 92 patients. Half of the patients had asthma and the other half had COPD. The study found that the majority of the patients—over 90%—were using their inhalers incorrectly. These mistakes in inhaler use were not one-time problems. In fact, these mistakes were repeated on a regular basis. Did the patients know they were making these errors? No. The majority of the patients thought that they were not making mistakes while using their inhalers! They also believed that that using their inhalers was an easy process. The study found that less than 65% of the patients had been taught how to use their inhaler correctly. [i]
The study concluded that it is important to frequently re-educate patients on proper inhaler use. Although some patients had few or no errors during the initial demonstration and training, as time went by, they tended to slip back into techniques that were less effective. [i]
You might be thinking, “Hmmmm… am I using the best possible technique with my inhaled medications? And do I understand how each of my medications is supposed to work to open my airways?” Here's help—at the end of this blog post you'll find links to information on how your COPD medications work as well as demonstrations on how to get the most from your inhaled medications.
Let's say that you are taking your inhaled medications properly, and you're keeping up with those good techniques. Of course, the goal is to breathe easier— but it may be possible to benefit in other ways, too, both physically and mentally. So, let's take a look at a few of the physical and mental benefits you might get with optimal understanding and use of your inhaled medications.
Physical Benefits from Proper Device Technique and Understanding Your Medications
- Breathing better—The most obvious benefit is to help you breathe better, whether it is doing that by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes, reducing the swelling of the inside lining of the airways, or by blocking messages to the airways to tighten up.
- Sleeping better—When we breathe better, we can sleep better and sometimes cough less.
- Avoiding side effects—If you can avoid unwanted side effects, you'll be more likely to keep on taking your medications as directed. Here's a hint for avoiding a common inhaler side effect: After you take an inhaler containing a corticosteroid, if you rinse your mouth and spit (don't swallow), you are more likely to avoid a thrush (yeast) infection on your tongue and in your mouth.
Menta Benefits from Proper Device Technique and Understanding Your Medications
- Clearer thinking—If you are sleeping better, that physical benefit may lead to a mental benefit—to help you think more clearly throughout the day.
- Better adherence (following the prescribed routine and sticking to it)—If you know the desired results of a certain medication and how it works to get those results, you may be more likely to keep on taking it.
- Peace of mind—When you can make sense of what you're doing, you are more likely to feel empowered to ask informed questions and make the right decisions for your health.
Are you making optimal use of your inhaled COPD medications? Do you get any of the above, or other, physical or mental benefits? If you’re not getting the best possible benefits from your inhaled medications, how can we help you do better?
Let's talk! I look forward to hearing from you!
Follow these links to resources on understanding your medications and using proper inhaled medication technique:
COPD medications and how they work—COPD Treatment and Medications | COPD Foundation Medications—https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/Educational-Materials-Resources/Downloads.aspx#BasicsCOPD
Use and care of inhalers and nebulizers—https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/Educational-Materials-Resources/Educational-Video-Series.aspx
[i] LuczakWozniak,K, Dabrowska,M, Domagala,I, et al. Mishandling of pMDI and DPI inhalers in asthma and COPD-Repetitive and non-repetitive errors. Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2018;51:65-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pupt.2018.06.002