Sometimes called a "breathing treatment," a nebulizer creates a mist out of
your asthma drug, which makes it easy and pleasant to breathe the drug into
the lungs. If you use a nebulizer, your doctor will prescribe the drugs in
liquid form, instead of in a canister.
To use a nebulizer, you attach the nebulizer hose to an air compressor, a
small machine that takes air from the environment and turns it into a high-pressure
stream. The drug is placed into a small cup. Air from the compressor converts
the drug into an aerosol mist that you inhale through a mouthpiece. By taking
slow, deep breaths, the medicine is delivered into your lungs. Small children
or others who cannot hold the mouthpiece tightly in their lips can wear a mask
to maximize the effects of the medicine.
Most compressors are small and lightweight, making them easy to use at home
or away, and are compatible with any nebulizer kit. However, some nebulizers
don't use air compressors. These are called "ultrasonic nebulizers," which
use sound vibrations to create the drug aerosol. These units are quieter but
Unlike a metered dose inhaler, which only takes a couple of minutes or less
to use, a nebulizer requires you sit down and relax for 5 - 30 minutes while
you inhale the drug. Some people enjoy the experience of using a nebulizer,
others don't have the patience.
Nebulizers require time and effort to keep them clean and operating properly.
For most patients with asthma, a nebulizer is not necessary and other delivery
methods like MDIs are appropriate.
Review Date: 5/16/2007
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-
A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.