What Is A Nebulizer?

A nebulizer is a breathing therapy that's sometimes prescribed as a treatment for asthma. This device can deliver the same asthma medications found in metered-dose inhalers (MDIs). These are pocket-sized inhalers most individuals are familiar with. Some might find nebulizers easier to use than traditional inhalers, particularly children who can't use proper inhalers yet or adults whose asthma is particularly severe. Nebulizers have liquid medicine dispensed into them, which is then converted into a mist that's inhaled. The device can be battery operated or electric and plugged into the wall. Patients also have the option of a portable size or a larger size meant to plug into the wall and sit on a counter or table.

Nebulizers For Asthma

Nebulizers are used to help treat asthma by dispensing the same medications that come from a traditional inhaler design. However, they're operated through battery or electric power, and they can be easier to operate for children and adults suffering a severe shortage of breath. The mechanism works by using pressurized air to turn a liquid medication dosage into a fine mist, which can then be inhaled. One of the problems with traditional inhalers is that inhaling a pocket inhaler's spray can be difficult, particularly for kids and severe asthmatics. The mist is easier to absorb when an individual can't take a deep breath. Some nebulizers, called rescue inhalers, deliver short-acting asthma medication to the recipient, which is meant to be used on an as-needed basis during asthma attacks. Other nebulizers are used on a long term basis as a long-acting asthma control medicine. These dosages are typically taken at the same time each day to help reduce the number and severity of asthma attacks. Some medications in nebulizers include formoterol, budesonide, ipratropium, and albuterol.

Other Uses For A Nebulizer

As discussed, a nebulizer is a medical device used to deliver inhaled medication in mist form. As such, it's designed for individuals with respiratory conditions that make taking deep breaths difficult. Asthma is the most common condition a nebulizer is prescribed for, but doctors may also prescribe one for patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchiectasis. Doctors might also prescribe nebulizers temporarily for children recovering from respiratory infections causing narrowing of the airways. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an ongoing lung disease in which inflammation leads to obstructed air flowing out of the lungs. Patients develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because of being exposed long-term to toxic particulates and gases that irritated the respiratory system, leading to a chronic inflammatory response. Most of the time, this is related to smoking, but individuals in jobs like coal mining might also develop it. Cystic fibrosis is genetic and causes the lungs to become progressively more clogged by mucus. Cystic fibrosis has the potential to be fatal, and often is without a lung transplant.

How To Use A Nebulizer

Before using the nebulizer, the doctor or a nurse should explain to the patient how to operate it. Most nebulizers have very simple designs despite running on electric power instead of manual engineering. If individuals pick up the nebulizer at the pharmacy, the pharmacist can explain the device and answer their questions. They will also be given a medication instructional guide that will include information about how this particular nebulizer model administers this particular medication dose. When it comes time to use, patients should wash their hands first. They should add a single dosage of their medication to the medicine cup, and put the nebulizer together by fitting together the top portion, tubing, respiratory mask, and included mouthpiece. Then, patients should follow the instructions to hook the tubing to the machine, bring the mouthpiece to their mouth, and turn the nebulizer on. They must make sure the medicine cup stays upright so all the medicine is dispensed. Then all they have to do is breathe slowly and deeply until the nebulizer has dispensed all of the medication. Patients might want to practice assembling it when they're not in respiratory distress to make sure they can manage during an asthma attack.

How To Clean A Nebulizer

The medical professional who teaches patients how to use the nebulizer will also show them how to maintain and clean it. Different models might have slightly different requirements, so individuals need to pay attention. As a general rule, patients should always wash their hands before cleaning and make sure they lay the nebulizer pieces on a sanitized surface. Patients will take apart the medicine cup, mouthpiece, mask, and tube. Each will be washed in warm and soapy water. The pieces should be allowed to air dry on a clean towel rather than being wiped dry. The nebulizer manufacturer will have specific instructions about how to disinfect the machine components. This can typically be found in the accompanying medication instructional guide. Individuals can expect to need to replace a few pieces of the nebulizer once every three to four months. The instruction manual will tell individuals when and how to do this, and where to get the replacement pieces. A dirty nebulizer can get contaminated with bacteria, which can lead to a dangerous respiratory infection.

Downsides Of Nebulizers

For the most part, nebulizers are easier to use than spray inhalers, especially if individuals are prone to severe asthma attacks and can't breathe deeply enough to inhale a full inhaler dose. They also require patients to have a power source, since they run either with batteries or with an electric cord. Some are equipped to run in both ways and have rechargeable batteries that provide up to forty-five minutes of battery life. Individuals should be aware of how portable they need their nebulizer to be when determining what kind of battery configuration they want. Nebulizers are also significantly more expensive than traditional inhalers due to their advanced power technology, so patients with insurance limitations might struggle to afford them. The last issue is that it takes around ten to fifteen minutes of deep breathing for a nebulizer to administer a full medication dose, while a spray inhaler works in about thirty seconds or less.