Nebulizers: Definition, Types, Uses, and Cleaning

Nebulizers: Definition, Types, Uses, and Cleaning

A nebulizer changes medication from a liquid to a mist so you can inhale it into your lungs.Nebulizers come in home (tabletop) and portable models. Home nebulizers are larger, and you have to plug them into an electrical outlet. Portable nebulizers run on batteries, or you can plug them into a car outlet. Some are only a bit bigger than a deck of cards, so you can carry them in a bag or briefcase.

Many people with asthma use nebulizers. Along with inhalers, they are a viable way of inhaling respiratory medicines. Unlike in the past, there are many types of nebulizers to choose from today. With so many options, what type of nebulizer is best for you? Here’s what to know.

Nebulizers are a form of inhaler that converts liquid medication into a fine mist inhaled by the patient. Nebulizers are used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as allergies and infections.There are many types of nebulizers available today, and it can be confusing to figure out which one is best for you. Keep reading this guide to find out about the different home nebulizer systems.

The Different Types of Nebulizers

Portable Nebulizers

Portable nebulizers are small (smaller than a soda can), portable, and battery-powered. They’re also very affordable. The price can range from $30 – $200, depending on the design and the amount of power. If you’re a frequent traveler and require medication for chronic lung disease, a portable nebulizer is a great choice.

Jet Nebulizer

These are the most common type of nebulizers for home use. Jet nebulizers use an air compressor to push a pressurized stream of compressed air through a narrow tube and liquid medicine, turning it into an aerosol. They are also frequently used in hospital healthcare settings for inhalation therapy. The main drawbacks of jet nebulizers are their size and noise generation during use.

Mesh Nebulizer

Mesh nebulizers, or vibrating mesh nebulizers, are more portable than compressor-based nebulizers. They create a mist by using airflow to force liquid medication through a mesh to create fine particles. Keep in mind that the particle size created by mesh nebulizers is smaller than other nebulizers. Many choose this type of nebulizer because it can be used with a variety of medications and is often less expensive than other types of nebulizers.

Ultrasonic Nebulizer

An ultrasonic nebulizer uses high-frequency vibrations to convert liquid into fine mist particles that can be inhaled in aerosol form. The resulting particles are larger than traditional jet nebulizers, but not as small as the particles created by mesh nebulizers. The particles are more uniform in size when compared to jet nebulizers.

Nebulizers for Asthma

Nebulizers can be very effective for pediatric asthma patients who have trouble using an inhaler. Nebulizers can utilize medications for combatting asthma attacks, including bronchodilators (albuterol, formoterol, salmeterol) to open up the airways and corticosteroids (budesonide, fluticasone, and triamcinolone) to alleviate inflammation.[1]The Different Types of Nebulizers

Advantages and disadvantages of different types of nebulizers

Types of nebulizersAdvantagesDisadvantages
Jet NebulizerLess expensive
Enhanced designs have improved performance and reduced aerosol waste during the exhalation phase
Require a source of compressed air or oxygen
Lower efficiency
Ultrasonic NebulizerDo not require a source of driving gas
Can nebulize large volumes of liquid
Shorter delivery time than jet nebulizers
Larger aerosolized particle sizes
High-density aerosols can cause bronchospasm and increased airway resistance
Lower efficiency
May breakdown complex molecules
Vibrating meshDo not require a source of driving gas
Shorter delivery time than jet nebulizers
Aerosolized particles are highly uniform and respirable
More portable (light weight and smaller size)
More efficient than jet nebulizer (minimizes drug waste)
More expensive
Require disassembly and cleaning after each use

How to Use a Nebulizer

Many people with chronic lung diseases such as COPD or asthma use a nebulizer to take their medication in the form of a mist that is inhaled into the lungs.

Nebulizers are often recommended for patients who have a hard time using inhalers because of health issues, or patients who are unable to inhale deeply enough for other devices.

A nebulizer has five basic parts A medicine cup, a top piece or cap to attach to a mask or mouthpiece to the medicine cup.

With your healthcare provider, you can decide which type works best for you. thin plastic tubing connects the mouthpiece to the machine and an air machine called a compressor, which can be plugged into an electrical socket for indoor use, a car adapter for when you are on the go, or battery-operated for portable use while not at home.

With clean hands, take the medicine as prescribed by your healthcare provider, and pour it into the medicine cup. Attach the top piece to the medicine cup, and then the mouthpiece or mask. Connect the tubing from the compressor to the medicine cup.

Put the mask over your face, or put the mouthpiece in your mouth between your teeth, and close your lips tightly around it. Turn on your compressor. Hold the nebulizer in an upright position to prevent spilling and to ensure the medication is correctly distributed.

Take normal regular breaths in through your mouth so that the medicine can go deep into your lungs. Continue until all of the medicine is gone from the cup.

How to Clean a Nebulizer

Many people with chronic lung diseases such as COPD or asthma use a nebulizer to take their medication in the form of a mist that is inhaled into the lungs.

Cleaning your nebulizer is important to prevent the spread of germs and keep you from getting sick. It will also keep your device working properly. It is recommended to wash the parts of your nebulizer after each use, including the mouthpiece or mask, top piece, and medicine cup.

To start, take the nebulizer apart by removing the tubing and setting it aside.

The tubing should never be placed under water. Remove the mouthpiece or mask, and medicine cup from the top piece, and place them all into the top shelf of the dishwasher.

Or wash the medicine cup, top piece, and mouthpiece or mask, in warm soapy water, and rinse. Shake off the excess water and let the pieces air-dry in a cool, dry place until the next use.

Your nebulizer will also need a thorough cleaning once a week. Soak the mouthpiece or mask, top piece, and medicine cup in a white vinegar and water solution for 30 minutes, or as recommended by your device manufacturer.

After 30 minutes, rinse and air-dry in a cool, dry place.

Clean the surface of the compressor and the outside of the tubing with a soapy cloth or disinfectant wipe.

The compressor and the tubing should never be submerged in water.

And remember, most compressors have an air filter that will need to be replaced every six months, or as recommended by your manufacturer.[2]How to Use a Nebulizer

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the use of a nebulizer?

A nebulizer is a device that turns the liquid medicine into a mist which is then inhaled through a mouthpiece or a mask. Sometimes asthma medication is given through a nebulizer as well, so this information can benefit people living with asthma too.

Is nebulization good for cough?

Nebulizer treatments drastically reduce coughing, sputum production, and chest tightness, allowing you to breathe easier.[3]Can You Use a Nebulizer to Treat a Cough?

Is nebulizer good for your lungs?

A nebulizer treatment may help reduce inflammation in the lungs or open airways, especially in the case of respiratory illnesses like asthma. Nebulizer treatments may also benefit people with other respiratory diseases like COPD who have lung-related complications from a cold or flu.

Is there any side effects of nebulizer?

Side effects of albuterol include nervousness or shakiness, headache, throat or nasal irritation, and muscle aches. More-serious — though less common — side effects include a rapid heart rate (tachycardia) or feelings of fluttering or a pounding heart (palpitations).[4]Side effects of nebulised medication

Does nebulizer clear mucus?

The medications used in nebulizers help your child by loosening the mucus in the lungs so it can be coughed out more easily, and by relaxing the airway muscles so that more air can move in and out of the lungs. Breathing the medication straight into the lungs works better and faster than taking the medication by mouth.

Is it OK to use nebulizer for dry cough?

Treatment: Dry cough can be treated by: nebulizer sessions The patient inhales hot steam that reduces the severity of the cough. It can be received by your doctor or hospital, and pharmacies have nebulizers that are suitable for home use.

How many times should I use nebulizer?

Adults and children older than 12 years of age—2.5 milligrams (mg) in the nebulizer 3 or 4 times per day as needed. Children 2 to 12 years of age—0.63 to 1.25 mg in the nebulizer 3 or 4 times per day as needed. Children younger than 2 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child’s doctor.

How long should you breathe in a nebulizer?

Breathe through your mouth until all the medicine is used. This takes 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the device and medicine used. If needed, use a nose clip so that you breathe only through your mouth. Turn off the machine when done.

Why do I cough after using a nebulizer?

This medicine may cause paradoxical bronchospasm, which means your breathing or wheezing will get worse. This may be life-threatening. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have coughing, difficulty breathing, or wheezing after using this medicine.

Do nebulizers work immediately?

But nebulizers take at least 5 or 10 minutes to get the medicine into the lungs and sometimes even longer.

What not to do after using a nebulizer?

After your nebulization session, don’t sterilize the ampoules using heat, as they’re made with polycarbonate or plastic. They’re materials that are sensitive to heat and you could damage them if you immerse them in boiling water.

About De Hua

Lindsay Boyers is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. Lindsay Boyers has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

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