A nebulizer (often referred to as a “breathing machine”), is a device specifically designed to convert liquid medication into a fine mist that can be inhaled directly into the lungs.
Nebulizers can be prescribed for different respiratory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These devices are often used by young children, people who have trouble using inhalers, and severe asthma patients.
What Is a Nebulizer?
Nebulization is a breathing treatment that delivers medication by converting medicated solution into an aerosol, which is then inhaled by a nebulizer. Both nebulizers and inhalers deliver asthma medication, though in different ways.
In general, asthma inhalers are small and deliver medicine quickly. Nebulizers, on the other hand, are bulkier and can take between 10 and 15 minutes to deliver medication. Although the process is slower, using a nebulizer ensures that the user is able to take in as much medication as possible.
How Does a Nebulizer Work?
When using a nebulizer, the user breathes in mist through a mouthpiece or face mask. Nebulizers can be battery-powered or electric, and consist of four main parts: the mouthpiece/face mask), cup, tubing, and nebulizer compressor.
Nebulizer medicine is placed into the cup, which is then attached to the compressor through a tube. The mouthpiece attaches to the cup.
Nebulizers can be used to vaporize both quick-relief (rescue) medication and long-acting medication. People living with asthma are most commonly prescribed nebulization therapy with a corticosteroid called albuterol.
Albuterol nebulizer treatment is also often used by people who suffer from emphysema, bronchitis, and other lung conditions.
How to Choose the Best Nebulizer
Nebulizers are available in both portable and home models. Portable nebulizers are small and easy to carry in a briefcase, backpack, or purse. They usually run on disposable or rechargeable batteries. Home nebulizers are larger and need to be plugged into an electric outlet.
Nebulizing devices are generally designed to deliver medicine through several different mechanisms. The three most common designs are ultrasonic, jet, and mesh nebulizers.
The nebulizer that’s best for you depends on your budget, preferences, diagnosis, and doctor’s recommendations. Some medications may require a certain type of device.
This type of nebulizer creates a liquid mist using ultrasonic waves. Because they don’t require additional liquid, they are very time-efficient. Ultrasonic nebulizers typically come in a compact, portable size.
Jet nebulizers use compressed air to create a liquid mist. They are usually larger than other types and require an electrical power source.
Mesh nebulizers are considered the fastest-working devices, releasing an aerosol mist with the help of a vibrating membrane. Most mesh nebulizers are battery-powered and are designed to be portable and easy to handle.
Once you’ve chosen an air compressor, think about whether you prefer a face mask or a mouthpiece. A nebulizer mask with a good fit will help to prevent leakage of the mist. For some people, however, a tighter fit can cause skin and eye irritation. In this case, a nebulizer mouthpiece is recommended.
There are a few other nebulizer accessories you will need before using a compressor, such as air filters and filter valves. Air filters help keep the nebulizer running properly by blocking dust and debris from entering the machine. Filter valves keep the nebulizer medication from dispersing into the surrounding air.
Note that air filters are not universal. It is important to buy a filter that is compatible with your breathing machine.
How to Use a Nebulizer
When using a nebulizer for the first time, read all safety and operating instructions provided by the manufacturer. Directions for using the compressed air machine vary per product.
Before each time you use a nebulizer, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Ensure your nebulizer machine (and all of its accessories) are clean and ready to use.
- Put your medication into the nebulizer cup and connect the tubing to both the cup and the air compressor. Next, connect the nebulizer mask or mouthpiece to the top of the cup.
- Turn on the nebulizer compressor and sit up straight in a comfortable position. If using a face mask, make sure it is positioned securely on your face. If using a mouthpiece, place it in your mouth, keeping your lips firm around it.
- Take slow, deep breaths, holding each breath for 2-3 seconds before exhaling. Continue until all the medication has been used. This process typically takes between 10 and 15 minutes.
- When the process is finished, turn off your device. Take a few deep breaths and, if necessary, cough to clear secretions.
- Wash your hands and clean the nebulizer mouthpiece and cup.
If you experience dizziness, stop the treatment and try again in a few minutes. If dizziness continues or worsens, contact your treating physician right away.
When Should You Have a Breathing Treatment and How Often to Use a Nebulizer
Millions of Americans experience breathing difficulties as a result of respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Aerosol therapies (or breathing treatments) alleviate symptoms and help to restore lung function. A breathing treatment like nebulization can be done for a variety of other reasons, such as treating a present disease or calming inflamed airways.
For people who require long-term treatment, a nebulizer is part of regular routine care and is used multiple times a day.
Treatments typically vary between 2 and 4 times a day but candepend upon the severity of your condition. If you have just experienced a severe asthma attack, your doctor may prescribe nebulizer treatment every 6 hours for a period of up to 10 days.
In some cases, nebulizers are not recommended to people with cardiac irritability and high blood pressure.
Cleaning and Care
Keeping your nebulizer clean is essential to prevent infections. It will also keep the device from clogging up and help it last longer. Each nebulizing machine comes with a manual that includes cleaning and storage instructions.
As a general rule, when cleaning your device, ensure you do so in a smoke- and dust-free area. After each use, rinse the nebulizer cup and mouthpiece (or face mask) with warm soapy water and let air dry.
Depending on the manufacturer, you may be advised to disinfect your equipment (except mask, tubing, and compressor) once a week with a water/vinegar solution or a disinfectant.
When not in use, keep your device covered with a clean cloth. Do not store the air compressor on the floor. Keep the machine and nebulizer tubing away from water. If you need to clean those parts, use a damp cloth or disinfectant/alcohol wipe.
Nebulizer parts, such as cups and face masks, are meant to last for about six months. If any of the parts – especially the mouthpiece, face mask, and tubing – seem worn out, discolored, or bent, replace them as soon as possible.
Finding the Right Nebulizer
Before you purchase nebulizer, ensure that you find a model that is of good quality and durability. Choosing the right product and supplier will help you receive the best possible level of treatment.
You can buy a nebulizer in most retail pharmacies, but you’ll also find them – with a broad range of breathing treatment accessories – at Express Medical Supply.
Purchasing your nebulizer from Express Medical Supply ensures that the highest quality nebulizer supplies are delivered directly to your home or office at the lowest cost.
Curious to learn more about respiratory care? Check out our blog!