Valved Holding Chambers and Spacers
Did you know? Metered-dose inhalers can spray medicine as fast as 60 miles per hour, causing the medicine to hit the back of your throat or roof of your mouth.
In order for inhaled asthma medicines to work properly, they need to reach your lungs. By simply attaching a valved holding chamber or spacer to your metered-dose inhaler, you can:
- Help the medicine move past your mouth and throat and get deep into your lungs
- Avoid problems with spraying and breathing at the same time
- Avoid breathing the medicine in too fast
- Make it easier to take your medicine when you are having asthma symptoms
Valved holding chambers and spacers are very similar devices; both are plastic tubes that attach to your metered-dose inhaler and are recommended for adults and children.
A spacer is a device that is placed on the mouthpiece of your quick-relief inhaler. When used, a spacer creates "space" between your mouth and the medicine. This space helps the medicine break into smaller droplets. The smaller droplets can move easier and deeper into your lungs when you breathe in your medicine.
A valved holding chamber is a type of spacer that includes a one-way valve at the mouthpiece. This device does more than provide "space" between your mouth and the medicine. It also traps and holds your medicine, which gives you time to take a slow, deep breath. This allows you to breathe in all of the medicine.
The one-way valve stops you from accidentally exhaling into the tube. Many valved holding chambers are lined on the inside with an anti-static coating which helps keep the medicine from sticking to the sides of the chamber.
There are several types of spacers and valved holding chambers to choose from. Together, you and your healthcare provider can decide if a spacer or valved holding chamber is right for you and which type will best meet your needs. Here are a few questions to ask your healthcare providers:
- Can a spacer or valved holding chamber help me manage my asthma?
- Do I need a prescription so my insurance plan will cover the cost?
- Can I purchase these at my local drugstore or pharmacy, or do I need to use a specialty medical supply company?
- Will you please show me the proper way to use the device and watch me use the device to make sure I'm using it correctly?
- How should I clean and store my device?
- How often should I replace my device?
- If your child has asthma, ask your healthcare provider if he or she can write a prescription for two devices—one to keep and use at home, and one to keep and use at school.
- For children under age 5 years, a mask can be attached to help the child use the spacer or chamber correctly.
- You should always have your quick-relief inhaler and spacer or chamber with you in case your asthma symptoms worsen. Collapsible models are available and may be easier to fit and carry in a handbag or backpack.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed May 23, 2018.