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Q: 
My son’s asthma specialist recommended I put a valved holding chamber on his bronchodilator inhaler. How do they work and why are they important?
A: 
A valved holding chamber is a handheld device that attaches to a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) and captures the asthma medication as it sprays out. The medication is trapped inside the holding chamber long enough for you to inhale it at your own speed.

Valved holding chambers are very important because they can increase how much medication is delivered into your lungs. The average inhaler – even when used correctly – only delivers about 60 percent of medication into the lungs. The valved holding chamber allows you to better streamline delivery of the medication so more of it can get into your lungs, making it more effective at controlling your asthma. It can also pull out larger particles of medication unable to make it into your narrow airways, keeping them from settling in your mouth or throat.

It's a good idea to keep your valved holding chamber right next to your asthma inhaler so you don’t forget to use it! Some inhalers even come with the holding chambers already attached, which may be more helpful for patients who find it difficult to remember to use it all the time.

It’s often helpful – especially for children – to use a mask that attaches to the valved holding chamber. The mask should fit over the mouth and nose and allow the user to take several breaths to inhale the medication fully.

It’s very important to clean your valved holding chamber. If you don’t, it can collect dust mites and mold – allergens that can often make your asthma worse. Valved holding chambers should be washed at least once a week if used every day. Read and follow the package instructions for proper cleaning – some can even go in the dishwasher!

Some insurance plans will cover valved holding chambers, and some won’t. The good news is the cost of valved holding chambers is not very high – around $10-15 apiece. If you do have to pay out of pocket, they are affordable and fairly long-lasting.