National asthma treatment guidelines say that valved holding chambers (VHCs) help patients use their metered-dose inhaler (MDI) more effectively and efficiently.1
A holding chamber suspends the aerosol spray of medicine inside the chamber long enough for you to inhale at your own speed, rather than trying to coordinate your inhalation with the fast-moving spray. It also also pulls out large particles of medication too big to get into your lungs and airways and keeps them from settling in the mouth or throat.
The device should be cleaned periodically to remove the normal accumulation of particles on the inside walls and valve.2
In addition, washing can help combat static electricity. While it’s normal for some large particles to cling to walls of the chamber, static electricity can cause small medication particles to collect, which will decrease the amount of medicine that gets into the lungs. That’s why it’s important to choose a unit made with antistatic materials and follow the recommended cleaning process to reduce the static charge.
How to Wash
Always check your device for cracks, debris or damage before each use, and wash it regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions – usually once a week, if you’re using it daily. Some units require washing before the first use.
Washing instructions will vary from one brand to another, but these are the most common steps:
Disassemble: Follow instructions for taking the holding chamber apart. This may include removing the soft plastic port where the inhaler is inserted, the mouthpiece cap and sometimes the mask. Do not take the valve section apart, unless instructed.
TIP: Always remove your MDI from the holding chamber before washing. MDIs require a totally different cleaning procedure, usually without water.
Soak: Prepare a large bowl with a solution of lukewarm water and liquid dishwashing detergent. (Washing with water alone causes an electrostatic charge to develop.2) Soak the device and all its pieces for 15 minutes.
TIP: Choose a bowl large enough for the chamber to rest fully in the water.
Rinse: Rinse all the pieces in clean water.
TIP: You can reduce the static charge of non-antistatic holding chambers and spacers by washing the device in a dishwashing liquid solution and letting it air dry without rinsing, but this is not as effective as using antistatic materials.
Air Dry: Shake off excess water, then place pieces on a clean, lint-free cloth or drying rack to air dry. Rest the chamber section on end (vertically), rather than on its side.
TIP: Do not towel-dry, as that can build up static charge.
Reassemble: When all the pieces are completely dry, carefully put them back together according to instructions.
Is it “Dishwasher safe”? Some holding chamber manufacturers say their units are dishwasher safe. Follow the instructions carefully, however, as most should not be put through a dry cycle or washed in water hotter than 158 degrees. Other instructions say not to wash holding chambers with extremely dirty dishes or in heavy wash cycles.