Nebulizers: Choosing the right Nebulizer

Specialty Medical believes in providing its customers with the most information possible pertaining to its products. Specialty Medical answers hundreds [ see current models and prices ] of questions a day pertaining to nebulizers. So we decided to put together an informative page helping explain what nebulizers are used for and help you make a better informed decision in deciding which nebulizer is best for you or your loved one. All pages and their content are provided as information only. This is not a substitute for medical care or your doctor's attention. Please seek the advice of your pediatrician or family doctor. Specialty Medical presents this information as is, without any warranty of any kind, express or implied. It is impossible to cover every eventuality in any answer, which makes direct contact with your health care provider imperative.

What Is a Nebulizer?

A nebulizer, also known as a breathing machine, changes asthma medication from a liquid to a mist, so that it can be more easily inhaled into the lungs. Home nebulizer therapy is particularly effective in delivering asthma medications to infants and small children and to anyone who is unable to use inhalers with spacers.

Nebulizers, in general, are not very portable. They are big in size and require an electrical source. There are portable nebulizers that are more lightweight, smaller and have an internal battery. If it is determined that a nebulizer is the best method for you to receive your medications, your health care provider can assist you in obtaining one. Unfortunately, they are more expensive than a standard nebulizer and are often not covered by insurance. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or health care provider.

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Are There Different Types of Nebulizers?

Yes, but all work basically the same way except the portable nebulizers which work by using a battery back up. Also some portable nebulizers do not deliver certain medications as well as others nebulziers. Some of the ultrasonic portable nebulizers do not deliver pediatric medications as well as other portable nebulizers do so it is important to discuss the specific portable nebulizer you are using with your doctor.

What Influences a Doctor's Recommendations Regarding the Inhaler He or She Picks Per Patient?

Your doctor will determine which class of medications you will need to use based on the severity of your asthma. After he prescribes them, your health care team will teach you to properly use the nebulizer. Always ask questions if you are unsure. Your technique should be reviewed at each follow-up visit to make sure you are performing it correctly.

Home Nebulizer Therapy

A nebulizer, also known as a breathing machine, changes asthma medication from a liquid to a mist, so that it can be more easily inhaled into the lungs. Home nebulizer therapy is particularly effective in delivering asthma medications to infants and small children and to anyone who is unable to use inhalers with spacers.

How Do I Use a Home Nebulizer?

To use a nebulizer, you attach the nebulizer hose to an air compressor, a small machine that takes air from the environment and turns it into a high-pressure stream. The drug is placed into a small cup. Air from the compressor converts the drug into an aerosol mist that you inhale through a mouthpiece. By taking slow, deep breaths, the medicine is delivered into your lungs. Small children or others who cannot hold the mouthpiece tightly in their lips can wear a mask to maximize the effects of the medicine.

Most Nebulizer compressors are small and lightweight, making them easy to use at home or away, and are compatible with any nebulizer kit. However, some nebulizers don't use air compressors. These are called "ultrasonic nebulizers," which use sound vibrations to create the drug aerosol. These units are quieter but more expensive. Also there are some pediatric medications that do not work with certain ultrasonic nebulizers so make sure you consulte with your doctor about what product you are looking to use.

Unlike a metered dose inhaler, which only takes a couple of minutes or less to use, a nebulizer requires you sit down and relax for 5 to 30 minutes while you inhale the drug. Some people enjoy the experience of using a nebulizer, others don't have the patience.

Nebulizers require time and effort to keep them clean and operating properly. For most patients with asthma, a nebulizer is not necessary and other delivery methods like MDIs are appropriate.

First, you will need the following supplies:

  1. Air compressor
  2. Nebulizer cup
  3. Mask or mouthpiece
  4. Medication (either unit dose vials or bottles with measuring devices)
  5. Compressor tubing
Once you have the necessary supplies:
  • Place the Nebulizer on a sturdy surface that will support its weight. Plug the cord from the Nebulizer into a properly grounded (three-prong) electrical outlet.
  • Before using the nebulizer for your treatment, wash your hands with soap and water and dry completely.
  • Carefully measure medications exactly as you have been instructed and put them into the nebulizer cup. Most medications today come in premeasured unit dose vials so measuring is not necessary. If you do measure use a separate, clean measuring device for each medication.
  • Assemble the nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece.
  • Connect the tubing to both the aerosol compressor and nebulizer cup.
  • Turn on the nebulizer compressor to make sure it is working correctly. You should see a light mist coming from the back of the tube opposite the mouthpiece.
  • Sit up straight on a comfortable chair. If the treatment is for your child, he or she may sit on your lap. If you are using a mask, position it comfortably and securely on your or your child's face. If you are using a mouthpiece, place it between your or your child's teeth and seal the lips around it.
  • Take slow, deep breaths. If possible, hold each breath for 2-3 seconds before breathing out. This allows the medication to settle into the airways.
  • Continue the treatment until the medication is gone (an average of 10 minutes). The nebulizer will make a sputtering noise, and the cup will have just a little medication remaining.
  • If dizziness or jitteriness occurs, stop the treatment and rest for about 5 minutes. Continue the treatment, and try to breathe more slowly. If dizziness or jitteriness continues to be a problem with future treatments, inform your doctor.
During the treatment, if the medication sticks to the sides of the nebulizer cup, you may shake the cup to loosen the droplets.

How Do I Care For My Home Nebulizer?


Cleaning and disinfecting your home nebulizer equipment is simple and very important. Proper care prevents infection. Cleaning your nebulizer should be done in a dust- and smoke-free area away from open windows.

Follow these instructions when cleaning your nebulizer equipment:

  • After each treatment, rinse the nebulizer cup thoroughly with warm water, shake off excess water, and let air dry. At the end of each day, the nebulizer cup, mask, or mouthpiece should be washed in warm soapy water using a mild detergent, rinsed thoroughly, and allowed to air dry. You do not need to clean the compressor tubing.
  • Every third day, after washing your nebulizer equipment, disinfect the equipment using either a vinegar/water solution or the disinfectant solution your equipment supplier suggests. To use the vinegar solution, mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1 1/2 cups of water. Soak the nebulizer equipment for 20 minutes and rinse well under a steady stream of water. Shake off the excess water and allow to air dry on a paper towel. Always allow the nebulizer equipment to completely dry before storing in a plastic, zippered bag.

Storing Nebulizers

  • Cover the compressor with a clean cloth when not in use. Keep it clean by wiping it with a clean, damp cloth as needed.
  • Do not put the air compressor on the floor either for nebulizer treatments or for storage.
  • Medications for your nebulizers should be stored in a cool, dry place. Check them often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and replace them with new ones.

How Do I Care For My Home Nebulizer?

  • Always have an extra nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece in case you need it.
  • Check the air compressor's filter as directed. Replace or clean according to the directions from manufacturer.

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