Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Asthma Nebulizers

Medical inhaler, nebulizer

Asthma Nebulizers or breathing machines as they are normally referred to by asthmatic patients, are devices that allow you to aerosolized liquid asthma medication and inhale it directly into your lungs as a mist.

Types of Asthma Nebulizers include:- 

  1. Jet Nebulizers
  2. Ultrasonic Nebulizers
  3. Mesh Nebulizers
Several factors including cost, your preferences, and your doctor’s preferences will determine which nebulizer is best mutually for you. Together with the factors, the kind of asthma medication prescribed also determines which nebulizer can be used.

Nebulizer Advantages

The need for less patient cooperation is one of the biggest benefits of using a asthma nebulizer. As a result, nebulizers are often used for infants and young children in the hospital or emergency department. 

Not only are nebulizers significantly easier to use than MDIs, they’re also advantageous if your coordination is not sufficient to appropriately use an MDI. MDIs require a level of skill to correctly deliver medicine to your lungs that can be difficult for patients. 

When used incorrectly, MDIs may deposit most of the medication into the back of your mouth instead of into your lungs, and can lead to side effects like hoarseness (of having a dry harsh voice) and thrush (infection of the mouth and throat by a yeast like fungus, causing whitish patches).

Asthma Nebulizers are easy to use. Through your normal breathing, they allow for the correct dose of medication to get where it is needed most – deep into your lungs.

Types Of Asthma Nebulizer And Their Functions

Although different nebulizers will have certain properties that may make one nebulizer more appropriate or desirable then the other, no specific nebulizer is better than another for your asthma. 
Jet Nebulizers – deliver a fine liquid mist of medication through a mouthpiece using compressed air. Jet nebulizers have a small plastic cup with an attached mouthpiece where the liquid medicine is placed. 

The mouthpiece is connected by plastic tubing to the compressed air source and a motor. As air passes through the small plastic cup containing the liquid medication, the liquid medication is converted to a fine mist which can then be breathed into the lungs. 

Jet Nebulizer

Jet nebulizers are the most commonly prescribed because they are easy to use and inexpensive. Traditional jet nebulizers are often bulky and require an electrical source, which can be a problem when you are traveling. 

Your asthma treatments also take longer with jet nebulizers, because medication must be mixed with Saline (Salt water). And also, jet nebulizers are a lot noisier than other types of asthma nebulizers. 

Jet Nebulizer

Ultrasonic Nebulizer

Ultrasonic Nebulizers - use a transducer to produce ultrasonic waves that aerosolized your asthma medication. Like jet nebulizers, ultrasonic nebulizers require the patient coordination, but can deliver breathing treatments significantly faster than jet nebulizers and do not require mixing Saline with your asthma medication. Ultrasonic nebulizers do not require a compressor and are much more compact. Additionally, ultrasonic nebulizers are more quiet and come in portable, battery operated units. 

Ultrasonic Nebulizer

Mesh Nebulizer

Mesh Nebulizers - vibrate a small mesh membrane at very high speeds and as liquid medication is forced through tiny holes in the mesh, an aerosol is produced. Mesh nebulizers are the fastest and also most expensive of the nebulizers. Like ultrasonic nebulizers, battery operated portable models are available, making them very convenient. Because of the vibrating mesh, however, mesh nebulizers need to be cleaned frequently to avoid clogging of the small openings used to create the mist. Finally, a number of experts recommend a backup nebulizer in case the mesh nebulizer fails. This creates added expense. 

Mesh Nebulizer

While it’s important for you to follow the use and cleaning instructions that come with your nebulizer, it will generally include these steps:- 

  1. Place the appropriate amount of medication in the plastic nebulizer cup.
  2. Assemble the nebulizer as per instructions.
  3. Insert the mouthpiece. If you have a small child your doctor may request to use a face mask.
  4. Turn on the machine.
  5. Begin breathing normally and continue until all the medication is gone. If you have a small child you will probably want to remain present for the entire treatment.
  6. Turn off the machine.
  7. Clean the machine per instructions.

Children And Nebulizers

Nebulizers can be scary for young kids, especially when first diagnosed with asthma. 

Here are a couple of tips and tricks to make breathing treatments easier:- 

  1. Nebulizers can be fun. Make the nebulizer treatments a fun time with your child. Play special games, watch a movie, or read your child a book. Medical supply companies also sell attachments that turn your nebulizer into a fire truck or a bear.
  2. Create a routine. For your child’s scheduled breathing treatments, the more successful you are in creating a routine, the less resistance you will likely receive from them. 

Caring For Your Nebulizers

Cleaning your nebulizer is important as using it – not doing so increases your risk of a respiratory infection like pneumonia (Lung inflammation caused by bacterial or viral infection). 

Generally, all you need to do is wash your nebulizer pieces with warm, soapy water after each treatment and let them air dry on paper towels. 

Check your user manual to see if the pieces can be washed in the dishwater.