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Nebulizer FAQs


What are the different types of nebulizers?

There are three main types of nebulizer systems. The first and most popular is the compressor nebulizer. It is also known as a jet nebulizer and works by forcing compressed air into the medication cup to aerosolize the medication. This is the type of nebulizer most medical facilities use.

The second type of nebulizer system is an ultrasonic nebulizer system. It works by vibrating the medication into an aerosol. It operates easily and silently, although it does have a few medication restrictions because it adds heat to the medications. Check with your healthcare provider before purchasing this type of nebulizer.

A subcategory of ultrasonic nebulizers is an electronic nebulizer. It works by vibrating a mesh or membrane to create an aerosol. Unlike an ultrasonic, it does not add heat to the solution so it does not have the same medication restrictions. Electronic nebulizers tend to be slightly more expensive than the other types.

One other nebulizer, often categorized separately, is the portable or travel nebulizer. These can be compressor or ultrasonic nebulizer systems and generally are characterized by their ability to operate away from a traditional wall outlet – either by battery or car adapter. These are popular for people who are on the go and can even replace a standard tabletop unit.


Are there any tips for fast and easy nebulizer treatments?

Nebulizer treatments can become a daily chore, but with a few easy changes, you can decrease your treatment time.

  • Be sure your filter is clean. A dirty filter will put unnecessary strain on your compressor and can slow down your treatment.
  • Be sure your nebulizer set is new. Disposable sets, which come with most compressors, are meant to last up to 10 treatments. Reusable nebulizer sets can last up to 6 months. Be sure you keep your nebulizer set fresh and new.
  • Consider getting a portable nebulizer so you can take your treatments on the go.

When should I replace my nebulizer?

If you use a nebulizer to manage your asthma or another medical condition, you might be wondering when you’ll need to replace your compressor or other components. Nebulizers last longer when properly cared for, and proper care involves checking the air filter frequently and changing it when necessary. Because a dirty air filter makes the compressor work harder, keeping it clean will extend the life of your machine.

Keeping your breathing machine clean is also important to ensure proper treatment and hygiene. Dust and particle build-up on your nebulizer and accessories can cause your machine to fail. Most systems should be replaced at least every 5 years. Making sure your nebulizer components are cleaned according to instructions will promote effective treatment and prevent the spread of germs.

While changing your air filter and cleaning your system properly are extremely important, plastic components do break down over time, and your nebulizer may eventually fail. When it comes time to replace your nebulizer system, choose one that will work with your specific medication (for example, the medication Pulmicort should not be used with ultrasonic nebulizers). Check with your healthcare provider or call us if you have questions about this.

If you haven’t shopped for nebulizers lately, you might be surprised at the large selection of nebulizers, components, and supplies currently on the market. Choose from tabletop, portable, jet, mesh, and ultrasonic models. These units will help you save time and will make your treatment more effective.

How do I choose a nebulizer?

A nebulizer is an investment in your health and wellness, and choosing a unit that fits your lifestyle and medical needs requires a lot of thought. When making your decision, keep these tips in mind:

  • Talk to your healthcare professional about your symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment plan. If a nebulizer is the right treatment for you, find out what types of medicines will be prescribed and how often you will be using the nebulizer.
  • Know where and when you will use the nebulizer. Depending on your lifestyle, you may need to purchase a unit for home use and a portable model for work, school, or travel.
  • Time constraints can play a role in your nebulizer selection. An ultrasonic unit will take less time per treatment than a compressor nebulizer (5 minutes rather than the average 15), and it will deliver 100% of the liquid medication you dispense, maximizing treatment and freeing your time for other activities. (Note: not all medications are approved for use with ultrasonic nebulizers. Check with your healthcare provider for compatibility information).
  • If your child requires nebulizer treatment, shop for child-friendly models. A nebulizer can be intimidating for small children, but purchasing a model with cartoon characters or a fun theme will help make breathing treatments enjoyable and relaxing. One of the most efficient units on the market, the PARI Vios, is available in a version made just for children. Both units function the same way, but the color and accessories of the PARI nebulizer for children will help your child feel more comfortable during treatment.

What should I know about disposable nebulizers?

For safety and convenience, disposable nebulizer sets are available. While reusable models can be used for longer (up to 6 months), disposable sets can make performing breathing treatments easier in some situations.

  • Disposable nebulizer sets are commonly used by hospitals and emergency rooms due to patient volume. They’re also often used in doctor’s offices; in fact, many doctors send their patients home with the sets used in-office. If your doctor provides you with a nebulizer set, make sure to ask if it’s disposable.
  • Many models come with tubing, so all you need is a compressor to hook the nebulizer set into.
  • Disposable nebulizer sets are great for travel. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll have access to a good place to clean your nebulizer set after treatment while you’re away, you can bring along some disposables to use with a portable compressor and throw them away after use.
  • They’re great for your child’s overnight trips. Keep the reusable nebulizer set at home and send him or her to Grandma’s house with a portable compressor and disposable nebulizer sets. This way, they can spend less time worrying about cleaning and more time having fun together. Also, you’ll feel assured that your child is receiving hygienic treatment.

Most disposable nebulizer sets can be used for up to two weeks. This may vary, so read the manufacturer’s instructions before use.


What are the differences between a tabletop nebulizer and a portable nebulizer?

If you’re wondering which type of nebulizer you should buy to treat your asthma or respiratory condition, start by talking to your healthcare provider. If you’re able to choose between portable and tabletop models, consider your needs and the advantages of both.


Buy a tabletop nebulizer compressor for home if:

  • You’re able to be at home for all of your treatments.
  • You prefer a more affordable nebulizer system.
  • You would rather not worry about recharging batteries.

Buy a portable nebulizer if:

  • You have a busy lifestyle and may not always be able to make it home for nebulizer treatments.
  • You like to travel.
  • You’d prefer a smaller model that’s easy to carry with you.

Some people prefer to purchase both types of nebulizers for convenience. If you’re unsure of which type to purchase, it might be best to go with portable models, as they offer greater versatility.

What should a caregiver know about the use of a nebulizer?

If your child or loved one requires breathing treatments and requires the help of a caregiver, it’s important that any caregivers, school nurses, home health aids, or teachers who might administer treatment understand how to properly use a nebulizer. Also, there are steps you can take to make the process a little less nerve-racking.

  • Try to arrange to demonstrate a complete nebulizer treatment for anyone who might administer treatment.
  • Type up specific instructions for after-treatment nebulizer cleaning and leave several copies with caregivers. If you’re worried that the nebulizer might not be cleaned properly, purchase disposable nebulizers. Also, include instructions for proper medication measurement.
  • If your nebulizer system didn’t come with one, purchase a carrying case to make storage easy and to ensure that all parts remain in one place.
  • Consider purchasing a small, portable nebulizer for away-from-home treatments. The Omron Micro-Air Electronic Nebulizer System, for example, is cordless and tubeless, and fewer parts and pieces could reduce the chances of misuse or loss.
  • Caregivers who are new to nebulizers might not be able to recognize when parts or accessories need to be replaced. Keep a chart to help you remember when it’s time to reorder and replace.

What medications are used with a nebulizer?

There are different types of prescription asthma medications that can be used with an aerosol compressor (nebulizer). These include:

  • Quick-relief medications that are used to reduce airway inflammation, bronchial swelling, and overproduction of mucus.
  • Long-term control medications that help manage symptoms on a daily basis.

Quick-relief medications such as albuterol will help relieve sudden asthma symptoms. They typically begin working 5 to 15 minutes after treatment and can usually be administered every 3 to 4 hours, depending on your healthcare provider’s instructions.

Preventative medicines like steroids and mast-cell inhibitors help manage symptoms to keep flare-ups at bay. A bronchodilator can be used to improve airflow. Steroids (corticosteroids) are taken once or twice daily and work to control inflammation, and mast-cell inhibitors decrease inflammation.

Some medications are only compatible with certain types of nebulizers. Your healthcare provider will tell you which type will work with your medication.

Are there any accessories for my nebulizer?

If you’re new to using a nebulizer, here is a quick guide to nebulizer accessories:

  • Nebulizer mask: A nebulizer mask fits over the mouth and nose to deliver medication directly to the airways. Nebulizer treatments require a mask or mouthpiece.
  • Nebulizer filters: These should be changed regularly in order to ensure the air you’re breathing in is clean and that normal air contaminates do not get into your nebulizers. Make sure to purchase a filter that’s compatible with your nebulizer. Using your nebulizer without the proper, clean air filter will cause normal air particles and contaminates to ruin your compressor.
  • Rechargeable nebulizer battery pack: If you have a portable nebulizer, a battery pack will ensure that your nebulizer is ready for use at all times.
  • Replacement power adapter: Tabletop nebulizers need to be plugged in order to function.
  • Carrying case: A carrying case helps protect your investment and makes traveling with a nebulizer more convenient. Many have pockets to hold smaller parts like masks and mouthpieces.

What should I know about nebulizer parts?

There are many nebulizers on the market, and each one is a little different. This general guide to nebulizer parts will give you a basic idea of what makes a nebulizer system function.

  • Nebulizer compressor: The compressor is the base of the system. It pumps air into the medication cup to create a breathable mist.
  • Nebulizer cup: This is the reservoir where measured liquid medication goes.
  • Mouthpiece/mask: This is the opening through which the mist is inhaled. Most nebulizer sets come with mouthpieces, but masks are available for those who find them more comfortable or who have trouble wrapping their lips around the mouthpiece.
  • Tubing: The tubing delivers air from the compressor to the medication cup.
  • Tubing connectors: These connect the tubing to the compressor and nebulizer cup.

All manufacturers provide specific information about the nebulizers they make, so check your user’s manual to learn more about your model. Also, check with your manufacturer for warranty and replacement information.

How do I get the best results from a nebulizer?

To get the best results from treatment, it’s crucial to get information on proper nebulizer use and care before you begin. Keeping your nebulizer in working order will help to ensure successful treatment and minimize symptoms.

Here are some mistakes commonly made in nebulizer use:

  • Using a type of nebulizer or medication that is not recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Using a nebulizer only upon the emergence of symptoms.
  • Not knowing the proper assembly and operating instructions for a nebulizer.
  • Not changing the filters, nebulizer cups, and tubing on a regular basis.
  • Measuring medication improperly.
  • For small children, attempting to use a nebulizer that isn’t child-friendly.

Knowing common mistakes will help prevent misuse and minimized treatment. Contact your healthcare provider for more information about the proper use and care of your nebulizer.

How do I set up a nebulizer?

Every nebulizer comes with specific instructions. Refer to these instructions before using for the first time.

  • Identify the components and accessories of the nebulizer unit. You should have an air compressor, medication cup, mask or mouthpiece, tubing, and measuring device (medication ampule, syringe, etc.).
  • Place your nebulizer (air compressor unit) on a table or stable surface.
  • Plug in the electrical cord.
  • Make sure all accessories and components have been cleaned and dried according to instructions.
  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Measure medication with the suggested measuring instrument, according to instructions.
  • Open the top of the nebulizer cup and dispense the medicine in front of the cup. Close the cup.
  • Attach the cup to the mouthpiece or face mask and connect the tubing to the compressor and the cup.
  • Switch the compressor on and get ready for treatment.


How do I use a nebulizer?

Successful nebulizer treatment depends on proper use and care of your nebulizer unit. Here are some instructions on using your nebulizer:

  • Allow enough time in your schedule for each treatment. Depending on your nebulizer, you may be spending between 5 and 15 minutes receiving treatment.
  • Make sure your unit, supplies, medications, and accessories are clean and ready to use.
  • Get comfortable—you’ll be spending your treatment time in one place, so make sure you have what you need. Feel free to watch TV, listen to music, read, or just relax during the process. It’s recommended that you sit up straight to ensure proper delivery of medicine.
  • Place the mouthpiece between your teeth and seal your mouth around it, or, if you’re using a mask, put it on so that it’s secure on the face with no gaps.
  • Switch on the power and take slow, deep breaths from the mouthpiece or mask. Hold each breath for two to three seconds before exhaling.
  • Treatment should continue until the medicine has been used.
  • Sometimes, patients feel dizzy or strange during treatment. If this happens, remove the mask or mouthpiece, turn off the machine, and rest for 5 minutes before beginning again, then breathe slowly.
  • When the treatment is finished, switch off the power, breathe deeply several times, and cough to clear secretions. Spit them into a tissue or basin.
  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Finally, check your nebulizer supplies and accessories to make sure you’ll be ready for the next treatment.

If you experience continuing symptoms like dizziness or agitation, seek medical attention. Contact your healthcare provider to learn more about nebulizers.

What is a nebulizer?

A nebulizer is a breathing machine used to treat lung conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory illnesses. They administer medication in the form of a mist that is inhaled into the lungs and are often used in situations where using an inhaler is difficult or ineffective. Nebulizers are also used to limit the side effects of medications like steroids by delivering the medicine directly to the respiratory system.

There are two types of nebulizers: atomizer jet and ultrasonic. The atomizer, or “compressor nebulizer,” is the most common. This type uses an aerosol compressor to vaporize droplets of medicine. Ultrasonic, or “mesh nebulizers,” use high-frequency sound waves to make liquid medicine breathable. While ultrasonic models produce results comparable to jet nebulizers, they offer faster delivery of medication and operate more quietly. With both types of nebulizer, the patient inhales vapor through a mouthpiece or face mask.

There are a variety of nebulizers on the market, ranging in price from $50 to around $200. Both the jet and ultrasonic nebulizer systems come in tabletop or portable models and a variety of accessories and supplies are available for each. Tabletop nebulizers are intended for home use, as they need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Portable units are battery-powered and small enough to fit into a bag or purse for travel; however, they tend to be more expensive and require disposable or rechargeable batteries or a car power adapter to run.

Consult your healthcare provider to find the appropriate unit for your needs.

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