How to Get a Toddler to Use an Inhaler: Tips and Tricks for Parents

Using an inhaler can be challenging for anyone, let alone a toddler who may not understand why they need to use it. However, if your child has been diagnosed with asthma or another respiratory condition, using an inhaler correctly is crucial for their health. As a parent, it can be frustrating and stressful when your child refuses to use their inhaler, but there are several strategies you can try to make the process easier for both you and your child.

One of the most effective ways to get your toddler to use an inhaler is to make it a part of their daily routine. This can help them become more comfortable with the process and reduce any anxiety or fear they may have. You can also try using a spacer with a mask attachment, which can make it easier for your child to inhale the medication and prevent them from exhaling into the device. Additionally, using a sticker chart or other reward system can help motivate your child to use their inhaler and make it a positive experience.

Understanding Asthma in Toddlers

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, making it difficult for a person to breathe. In toddlers, asthma can be particularly challenging to diagnose and treat, as their symptoms may be less specific than those of older children or adults.

Asthma in toddlers is often triggered by allergies, respiratory infections, and other environmental factors. When a toddler with asthma is exposed to a trigger, their airways become inflamed, swollen, and constricted, making it harder for them to breathe.

Symptoms of Asthma in Toddlers

The symptoms of asthma in toddlers can vary, but some of the most common signs to look for include:

  • Wheezing or whistling sounds when breathing
  • Coughing, particularly at night or early in the morning
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing during or after physical activity
  • Fatigue or irritability due to poor sleep caused by breathing difficulties

It’s important to note that not all toddlers with asthma will experience all of these symptoms. In some cases, a toddler may only have occasional coughing fits or wheezing, while in others, symptoms may be more severe and persistent.


Diagnosing asthma in toddlers can be challenging, as their symptoms may be less specific than those of older children or adults. Additionally, some of the tests used to diagnose asthma, such as lung function tests, may be difficult for a toddler to complete.

To diagnose asthma in a toddler, a doctor will typically start by reviewing the child’s medical history and symptoms. They may also perform a physical exam and order additional tests, such as a chest X-ray or allergy testing.

If your toddler is diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to work closely with your child’s doctor to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to their individual needs. This may include medications such as inhalers or nebulizers, as well as lifestyle changes to help reduce exposure to triggers.

Treating Asthma in Toddlers

Asthma in toddlers can be a challenging condition to manage, especially when it comes to administering medication. However, with the right knowledge and tools, treating asthma in toddlers can be a manageable process. In this section, we will discuss the different medications and inhalers available, the correct dosage and technique for inhalers, and how to use a spacer or mask with an inhaler.

Medications for Asthma in Toddlers

There are two main types of medications used to treat asthma in toddlers: inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators. Inhaled corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce swelling and inflammation in the airways, which can help prevent asthma symptoms. Bronchodilators are medications that relax the muscles around the airways, making it easier to breathe.

Types of Inhalers for Toddlers

There are several types of inhalers available for toddlers, including metered dose inhalers (MDIs), dry powder inhalers, and nebulizers. MDIs are the most common type of inhaler and use a canister to deliver medication. Dry powder inhalers use a breath-activated mechanism to deliver medication, while nebulizers use a machine to turn liquid medication into a mist that can be inhaled.

Correct Dosage and Technique for Inhalers

It is important to use the correct dosage and technique when administering medication through an inhaler. The correct dosage will depend on the child’s age, weight, and severity of asthma. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the correct dosage for your child. The technique for using an inhaler will also vary depending on the type of inhaler. It is important to follow the instructions provided with the inhaler and to practice proper technique.

Using a Spacer or Mask with an Inhaler

Using a spacer or mask with an inhaler can help ensure that the child receives the correct dosage of medication. Spacers are plastic tubes that attach to an inhaler and help deliver medication to the lungs. Masks are also available for young children who may have difficulty using a mouthpiece. It is important to ensure that the mask or spacer fits properly and that the child is using it correctly.

In conclusion, treating asthma in toddlers requires a combination of medications and proper inhaler technique. By working with a healthcare provider and using the correct tools, parents can help manage their child’s asthma symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Long-Term Control and Rescue Medications

When it comes to treating asthma in toddlers, long-term control and rescue medications are essential. Long-term control medications are used to prevent asthma symptoms and reduce inflammation in the airways. Rescue medications, on the other hand, are used to provide quick relief during an asthma attack.

Long-Term Control Medications

Long-term control medications are typically taken daily and include maintenance medications and leukotriene modifiers. Maintenance medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are the most common type of long-term control medication and are used to reduce inflammation in the airways. Leukotriene modifiers, such as montelukast, work by blocking the action of leukotrienes, which are chemicals that cause inflammation in the airways.

Combination inhalers, which contain both a corticosteroid and a long-acting beta-agonist (LABA), are another type of long-term control medication. They work by reducing inflammation and relaxing the muscles in the airways, making it easier to breathe. However, they should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as they can increase the risk of severe asthma attacks.

Rescue Medications

Rescue medications, such as albuterol, are used to provide quick relief during an asthma attack. They work by relaxing the muscles in the airways, making it easier to breathe. Albuterol is typically taken through an inhaler or a nebulizer and should only be used as needed.

It is important to note that while rescue medications can provide quick relief during an asthma attack, they should not be used as a substitute for long-term control medications. Long-term control medications are essential for preventing asthma symptoms and reducing the risk of severe asthma attacks.

In conclusion, long-term control and rescue medications are essential for treating asthma in toddlers. Long-term control medications are used to prevent asthma symptoms and reduce inflammation in the airways, while rescue medications are used to provide quick relief during an asthma attack. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to develop an asthma management plan that includes both types of medications.

Managing Asthma in Toddlers

Asthma can be a challenging condition to manage in toddlers, but with proper care and attention, it is possible to keep symptoms under control. Here are some tips for managing asthma in toddlers:

Creating an Asthma Action Plan

Creating an asthma action plan with your pediatrician is an essential step in managing your child’s asthma. This plan should outline your child’s triggers, symptoms, and the steps you should take in case of an asthma attack. It should also include a list of medications and instructions on how to use them.

Educating Others about Your Child’s Asthma

It is crucial to educate family members, caregivers, and teachers about your child’s asthma. They should know how to recognize symptoms, what to do in case of an emergency, and how to administer medication if necessary. This will help ensure that your child is safe and well-cared for, even when you are not around.

Monitoring Asthma Symptoms

Monitoring your child’s asthma symptoms is essential to keeping their condition under control. Keep track of any wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, and note any triggers that may have caused the symptoms. This information will help you and your pediatrician adjust your child’s treatment plan as needed.

Treating Severe Asthma Attacks and Emergencies

In the event of a severe asthma attack, it is essential to act quickly. Administer medication as prescribed, and call for emergency medical assistance if necessary. It is also important to have an aerochamber or similar device on hand to help your child inhale medication more effectively. After an asthma attack, rinse your child’s mouth with water to help prevent side effects from the medication.

By following these tips and working closely with your pediatrician, you can help ensure that your toddler’s asthma is well-managed and under control.


In conclusion, getting a toddler to use an inhaler can be challenging, but it is important for managing their asthma symptoms. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Asthma in children under the age of 5 can be challenging to diagnose, so it is important to work closely with your child’s doctor to develop a treatment plan.
  • Using a nebulizer may be easier for very young children who are not yet able to use an inhaler.
  • Proper inhaler technique is essential for effective treatment. It is important to work with your child to ensure they are using their inhaler correctly.
  • It may take some time for your child to get used to using an inhaler, so be patient and persistent.
  • It is important to monitor your child’s symptoms and work with their doctor to adjust their treatment plan as needed.

Remember, managing your child’s asthma requires a team effort between you, your child, and their doctor. With the right treatment plan and proper inhaler technique, your child can lead a healthy, active life.

About the author
Piper is a seasoned parent who has been through the ups and downs of raising toddlers. As a writer, she shares her experiences and offers practical advice to help other parents navigate the challenges of parenthood.