How to Use a Dry Powder Inhaler (DPI)

Using dry powder inhaler correctly is essential for getting your full asthma medication dosage

Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs) do not require the hand-breath coordination of a pressurized MDI. They are breath-actuated, meaning the medicine is released to your airways when you take a deep, fast breath from the inhaler. DPIs typically require a quick, forceful inhalation; for some patients, this may make a DPI more or less difficult to use during an asthma flare.

Medication particles in DPIs are powdered, not wet like an MDI, and are so small they can reach the tiniest airways. You may not taste or feel the particles. They do not contain chemical propellants and people with milk allergy should be aware they contain traces of lactose.

Some asthma medications are available in both DPI and MDI form, and some patients include both in their treatment plan. Talk with your doctor about exactly what medication and device is best for you.

photo of some of the many different types of Dry powder inhalers available in the US

Dry Powder Inhaler Step-By-Step Instructions:

  1. Follow your device instructions to load the medication dose. Multi-dose inhalers are preloaded with medication, which you typically prepare with a click of the device. Single-dose inhalers use separately packaged capsules that you drop into the chamber.
  2. Stand or sit up straight and breathe out completely. Emptying your lungs is one of the most important steps.
  3. Put the mouthpiece into your mouth, close your lips tightly around it and breathe in quickly and forcefully.
  4. Take the DPI out of your mouth, hold your breath for 5-10 seconds, then exhale slowly.
  5. If your treatment plan calls for a second dose, reload and repeat the steps.
  6. When using a capsule device, open the chamber and check to see if the powder has been fully inhaled. If you see remaining powder, close the device, exhale fully, close your mouth around the mouthpiece and inhale again. When the capsule is empty, remove and discard it.
  7. Close the device and store in a dry place. Do not wash with water; use only a dry cloth to wipe the mouthpiece.

Dry Powder Inhaler Quick Tips

  • Do not open the device until you are ready to use it. • Never open or swallow the capsule – always use it with its matching DPI
  • Do not shake the DPI.
  • Do not use a holding chamber or spacer with a DPI.
  • With most DPIs, the mouthpiece should be pointed up or held horizontal when using in order to not dump the medication after loading.
  • Rinse your mouth after using, if instructed by your physician.
  • Multi-dose devices have an indicator to alert you to the number of doses remaining, or when the device is almost empty.
  • General instructions are that you should not allow your DPI to get wet. The mouthpiece should be wiped regularly with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Inhaling the dry powder may cause some people to cough; talk with your doctor if this happens.

COVID-19 Information Center ⇢

How do I monitor my daily asthma symptoms?

National asthma guidelines suggest using a daily symptom diary such as Allergy & Asthma Network’s AsthmaTracker™ to keep track of symptoms, peak expiratory flow rates (if you or your child use a peak flow meter) and medications used.

What is an AsthmaTracker?

The AsthmaTracker™ can help your track how well your symptoms respond to your treatment plan. By writing down your symptoms, peak expiratory flow rate and medication use each day, you’ll notice a pattern to your symptoms and develop strategies to stop the symptoms before they can stop you.

What is a peak flow meter?

A peak flow meter is a handheld device that measures the peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), or how much air you can forcibly push out of your lungs at a particular time.

Asthma Storylines – an app for managing asthma

The free Asthma Storylines app is a self-care tool for managing asthma. Track symptoms, learn more about daily patterns and record topics to discuss with your healthcare team.

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Image of doctor holding up phone towards camera. The phone has the Asthma Storyline app on it.

Are there other conditions that may look like asthma or complicate asthma?

There are other types of respiratory conditions that are different than asthma.  The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment can vary depending upon the condition. Here are some of them.

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COPD

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respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

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alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

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COVID-19

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sleep apnea

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bronchiectasis

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influenza, infections and viruses

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Vocal cord dysfunction