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How to Use a Nebulizer

A nebulizer  is sometimes prescribed to asthma patients as a form of breathing therapy or treatment. They work in very much the same way as metered-dose inhalers. these are the pocket-sized inhalers you see around today. Generally, nebulizers are used for very small children or adults suffering with severe asthma.

The way it works is by turning liquid medicine into a vapour that can be inhaled by the patient.  Nebulizer s come in either a battery or electric version, each of which has their advantages and disadvantages.  They come in both a portable version that you can easily carry around with you and a larger version that’s designed to stay indoors, plugged into a wall.  Both versions consist of a base to hold the air compressor, a container that holds the liquid medicine, and tubing that runns between the two parts.  On top of the medicine container sits a mouthpiece as well as a mask which is used to inhale the mist.

How to use a nebulizer?

You’ll get a manual with the nebulizer so it’s always best to read that before starting any treatment.  Your doctor will advise you on how often to use the nebulizer and if there are any instructions you need to carry out.  But here’s a brief guide to using one: 

  1. Place the compressor close to an outlet on a flat surface.
  2. Ensure all the pieces are clean and your hands have been thoroughly washed before handling any medication.
  3. If using premixed medication, simply place it in the container. If not, carefully measure the correct amount before placing it in the container.
  4. Connect the tube to both the liquid container and the compressor.
  5. Attach the mas or the mouthpiece.
  6. Switch the nebulizer on to check that it’s misting correctly.
  7. If using a mouthpiece, put it in your mouth and close, ensuring there are no gaps. If using a mask, ensure it fits securely over the nose and mouth and that no gaps can be seen.
  8. Inhale and exhale slowly until all the medicine is gone.  This could take anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes depending on the person and the dose.

How does it work?

Liquid medicine is turned into a mist as pressurised air goes through the tubbing.  The mist from a nebulizer is often easier to administer than a pocket inhaler during an asthma attack or respiratory infection as you aren’t able to take deep breaths when your airways become narrow.  Different medications are used in nebulizer s including albuterol, budesonide, formoterol, and ipratropium.  The doctor will prescribe different medications depending on the individual’s needs.  Some may receive premixed containers of medicine while others will have to mix the solution themselves before each use.

Cleaning and caring for your nebulizer

As you’re breathing in vapour from the machine you want to make sure that it’s clean, so always clean the nebulizer before and after each use and disinfect it after every other.  Failure to clean it properly could lead to a build-up of bacteria and other germs, creating even more problems to deal with. You should replace the tubing regularly too.

Daily cleaning

  1. Separate the mouthpiece or mask and medicine container from the compressor.  Then wash the mouthpiece with hot, soapy, water.
  2. Dry off any excess water.
  3. Reattach the medicine container. Then re-attach the mouthpiece and mask to the compressor and switch it on to air dry the parts.

Disinfecting

  1. Remove the mouthpiece as well as the medicine container from the compressor.
  2. Soak these parts in a solution of one-part vinegar to three parts hot water, or another that your doctor advised.
  3. Allow the parts to soak for around one hour, unless advised otherwise.
  4.  Remove the parts from the solution and allow them to air dry or reconnect them to the machine to air dry them.

Advantages of using a nebulizer

  1. Multiple medications can be administered simultaneously.
  2. May be easier for using with young children.
  3. Easier to use at the time of an attack.

Disadvantages of using a nebulizer

  • Mains power is normally required for them to work.
  • Medicine takes longer to deliver through a nebulizer opposed to an inhaler
  • Nebulizers are more difficult to transport than an inhaler.
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Andy Bannister
Andy is a nutrition and fitness expert, media personality, personal trainer, writer, life coach, and overall health enthusiast.