Nebulizers are small medical machines that convert liquid into a fine mist that can be inhaled through an aerosol mask or small mouthpiece. Powered by a built-in battery or a standard household outlet, nebulizers are commonly used to deliver medications for respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis.
How Do Nebulizers Work?
All nebulizers convert liquid into an aerosol by pulling the fluid across an ultrasonic plate or forcing compressed liquid through a small jet. Once the liquid is aerosolized, it is pushed through a clear tube connected to either a face mask or mouthpiece. The user slowly inhales the mist from the nebulizer, using deep breaths to move the mist into the lungs.
Who Should Use a Nebulizer?
As with all regulated medical devices, a nebulizer should only be used by patients with valid prescriptions from a licensed medical doctor.
Nebulizers are commonly prescribed to children, teens, and adults who need liquidized medications, such as formoterol, albuterol, or budesonide. For some patients, a nebulizer can replace handheld puffers, while others use nebulizer therapy in addition to asthma puffers.
Nebulizers can also deliver saline, a sterile salt water solution available with a prescription, into the respiratory system to help control wheezing and congestion caused by bronchitis.
Portable vs. In-Home Nebulizers
In the past, nebulizers were relatively large and loud and required a household plug. This meant nebulizer users could only take their treatments at home or in a medical office.
Thanks to advances in medical technologies, several small, lightweight, portable nebulizers are now on the market, making it easy for patients to take their treatments anywhere. These mobile devices can be as small as a typical smartphone, and the built-in battery can power up to 15 treatment-cleaning cycles between charges.
In-home nebulizers are a budget-friendly option for those who don’t need a pocketable device. These nebulizers are about the size of a tissue box and deliver most treatments in about 8 to 10 minutes. Many nebulizer users opt to have a plug-in unit while at home and a second portable nebulizer used while they’re away from home.
Nebulizers vs. Inhalers
Here at Copper Star Home Medical, we’re often asked to explain the difference between nebulizers and inhalers, as both are used to treat respiratory conditions.
Most inhalers are designed as a mini aerosol can, and they deliver a pre-measured dose of medication each time the user presses or squeezes the release mechanism. Some inhalers deliver finely powdered medicines, requiring the user to inhale quickly when the inhaler is activated.
By comparison, nebulizers deliver a wet mist inhaled into the lungs. The user breathes the vapor in through a face mask or mouthpiece for 5-10 minutes, and there’s no need for the user to try to sync their breathing with the machine.
For some patients, nebulized medications can cost much less than the same medication delivered through an inhaler since the patient isn’t paying for a disposable puffer. Nebulizers are also popular with young patients who often struggle to use inhalers correctly.