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September 04, 2020 3 min read

A nebulizer is a powered medical device that delivers medication directly to the lungs to effectively treat respiratory illnesses and conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchitis. 

What Does it Do?

Nebulizers convert medication into a fine mist so it can be more easily absorbed by the lungs. The mist is delivered through a mouthpiece or a mask, so the medicine quickly reaches the respiratory system. 

When Do You Need a Nebulizer Machine? 

Lung disorders such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and bronchitis are illnesses typically treated with a nebulizer machine. Remember, the medication used with nebulizers requires a prescription from a physician, so consult your doctor prior to use.

How Do You Set Up and Use a Nebulizer System?

Nebulizer machines can differ slightly depending on the type of nebulizer and the manufacturer. Generally, nebulizers are easy to use by patients. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Add the prescribed medicine to the medicine cup.
  2. Assemble the tubing and mouthpiece/mask (if applicable).
  3. Attach the tubing to the nebulizer.
  4. Turn the nebulizer on.
  5. Insert mouthpiece or apply the mask and take slow, deep breaths.

What Do You Put in Nebulizers?

Depending on the medical condition being treated, there are many different medications you may be using with your nebulizer. If you suffer from asthma, COPD or bronchitis, you may be prescribed bronchodilators by your doctor. These medications open the airway and make breathing easier. Alternatively, sterile saline solutions may be prescribed to loosen congestion in the airway. Lastly, antibiotics may be recommended for use with a nebulizer to treat a severe respiratory infection. 

What’s the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? 

While both inhalers and nebulizers deliver medicine to the lungs, these devices differ on how they deliver the medication. Inhalers deliver short bursts of medicine quickly and easily via a portable, handheld device that is manually operated by the user. The most common type of inhaler is a metered-dose inhaler (MDI). However, inhalers are most often used incorrectly. Only about five percent of patients used a metered-dosed inhaler (MDI) correctly.1Improper use can make the medicine ineffective.

Alternatively, nebulizers turn liquid medication into an easily inhaled mist that is more efficiently delivered directly into the lungs. Nebulizers vary in type but rely on a power source, such as an electrical outlet or rechargeable battery to function. Nebulizers traditionally can take up to 10 minutes to deliver a dose of the medication. The new ultrasonic, portable mesh nebulizers are pocket-size devices that can deliver a full dose within 4 minutes. 

How Do You Clean Nebulizer Machines?

Nebulizer machines are easy to use and easy to maintain. Follow these simple guidelines for keeping your machine clean and sanitized. 

  • Wash the tube, mask, and medicine cup in warm, soapy water.
  • Let the pieces dry thoroughly before reassembling.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for sanitizing.

You may also need to replace parts of your nebulizer machine a few times a year to maintain good hygiene. Refer to your manufacturer’s instructions for the parts replacement schedules. 

Do You Need a Prescription to Buy a Nebulizer?

No, you do not need a prescription to buy a nebulizer machine. You will need a prescription for the necessary medications. 

How Much Does a Nebulizer Normally Cost?

Nebulizers can range in price from as little as $39.99 for a home unit for managing treatments while plugged into an outlet to approximately $200 for portable nebulizers that let you take your medication on the go. Prices may vary and are often discounted as part of a promotion.