What is a nebulizer?
A nebulizer is a device that helps a person inhale medicine in the form of a mist through a mask or a mouthpiece. A nebulizer delivers the drug directly into the airways and the lungs, achieving targeted action and minimizing systemic side effects in the body. Nebulizers are used for a variety of conditions affecting the airways and lungs.
What is a nebulizer used for?
A nebulizer is used to relieve various symptoms related to the lungs:
- Wheezing (a whistling or rattling sound in the chest during breathing)
- Severe cough
- Chest tightness
Some common lung diseases that can require a nebulizer are:
What do you put in a nebulizer?
A nebulizer converts the liquid form of a drug into a mist or a fine spray with oxygen, compressed air or ultrasonic power. Drugs that can be given through a nebulizer include:
- Corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, fluticasone and triamcinolone): These drugs reduce the inflammation and irritation in the lungs and airways.
- Bronchodilators (e.g., albuterol, formoterol, levalbuterol and salmeterol): These drugs open the airways.
- Hypertonic saline solutions (medical grade saltwater solutions): These solutions loosen mucus in the airways and make it easier to cough it out.
- Antibiotics to treat and prevent infections.
How do you use a nebulizer at home?
It is recommended that you use a nebulizer at home only if:
- Your healthcare professional recommends using it at home.
- You are prescribed medications to use with a nebulizer.
- You understand its usage and maintenance.
Nebulizers may vary in their design and usage. Generally, it is very simple and convenient to use a nebulizer. The basic steps are:
- Wash your hands well.
- Place only the prescribed quantity of medicine in the medicine cup.
- Close the medicine cup tightly to avoid spills.
- Attach the tubing and mouthpiece/mask to the medicine cup.
- Place the mouthpiece in your mouth with your lips firmly around it. If you are using a mask, be certain that it fits well around your nose and mouth.
- Turn on the nebulizer and breathe through your mouth until the medicine is consumed. Hold the mouthpiece and medicine cup upright. You must breathe slowly and deeply. You will likely feel comfortable and pleasant as the drug reaches your airways.
- Turn off the machine when done.
- Wash the mouthpiece and medicine cup with water and air dry them.
- Do not use the same mouthpiece, mask or tubing for other medications.
How should I clean my nebulizer?
A thorough cleaning of the nebulizer is recommended once a week to ensure that it functions well and to avoid the spread of infection. Tips to keep your nebulizer clean:
- Wash the mouthpiece/mask, top piece and medicine cup after each use.
- To start, remove the tubing and set it aside. Never place it under water.
- Remove the mouthpiece/mask and medicine cup from the top piece. Wash them in warm soapy water and rinse. You can also wash them on the top shelf of a dishwasher.
- Air dry the pieces after washing and keep them in a cool and dry place until you use them again.
- Soak the mouthpiece/mask, top piece and medicine cup in a solution of white vinegar and water for 30 minutes and/or per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Rinse and air dry after 30 minutes.
- The compressor and the outside of the tubing must be cleaned with a soapy cloth or disinfectant wipe. Never submerge them in water.
- Most compressors have an air filter that needs to be replaced every six months and/or per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Latest Lungs News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
How to Clean a Nebulizer
Pharmacologic Management of COPD: An Official ATS Clinical Practice Guideline
Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma
Top What Is a Nebulizer Used for Related Articles
COPD Lung SymptomsCOPD is a pulmonary disorder caused by obstructions in the airways of the lungs leading to breathing problems. Learn about COPD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
COPD vs. Asthma (Differences and Similarities)COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma both have common symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest. COPD is caused by tobacco smoking, while asthma is caused by your inherited genetic makeup and their interactions with the environment. Risk factors for asthma are obesity, exposure to cigarette smoke (even secondhand smoke), and personal history of hay fever. There is no cure for either disease, but symptoms can be managed with medication. A person with asthma has a better prognosis and life expectancy than someone with COPD.
COPD vs. EmphysemaCOPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the term doctors and other healthcare professionals use to describe a group of serious, progressive (worsens over time), chronic lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma. The number one cause of COPD or emphysema, is smoking, and smoking is the third leading cause of death in the US.
EmphysemaEmphysema is a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that often occurs with other obstructive pulmonary problems and chronic bronchitis. Causes of emphysema include chronic cigarette smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and in the underdeveloped parts of the world. Symptoms of emphysema include chronic cough, chest discomfort, breathlessness, and wheezing. Treatments include medication and lifestyle changes.
Exercises for COPDThe more you exercise, the better you'll feel with COPD. Breathe easier with these 10 exercises from WebMD.
Lung AnatomyThe lungs are primarily responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood. Eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood is important, because as it builds up in the blood, headaches, drowsiness, coma, and eventually death may occur. The air we breathe in (inhalation) is warmed, humidified, and cleaned by the nose and the lungs.
Pulmonary Embolism (Blood Clot in the Lung)A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a piece of a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) breaks off and travels to an artery in the lung where it blocks the artery and damages the lung. The most common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are shortness of breath, chest pain, and a rapid heart rate. Causes of pulmonary embolism include prolonged immobilization, certain medications, smoking, cancer, pregnancy, and surgery. Pulmonary embolism can cause death if not treated promptly.
Surprising Causes of Lung DamageCarpets, fireworks, and hot tubs are some of the unexpected things that can hurt your lungs. Find out what you can do to prevent problems from these and other culprits.
What are the Four Stages of COPD?COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a group of diseases that cause an inflammatory reaction and irreversible damage in the lungs. The result is obstruction of normal airflow and breathing difficulties. COPD is a lifelong condition with periods of flare ups, and is not curable in any stage of the disease. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common diseases that make up COPD.