Nebulizer Basics

A nebulizer is a machine that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist to be inhaled into the lungs. 

Nebulizers consist of a container to hold liquid medicine and a mechanism to change the liquid to a mist. There is also a mouthpiece or a mask that is used for inhaling the medicine.

Who needs a nebulizer?

Your doctor may prescribe a nebulizer if you have a chronic respiratory condition such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or asthma.

Nebulizers may also be prescribed to people suffering from acute conditions such as respiratory infections or bronchitis.

Many patients will receive breathing treatment with a nebulizer at a doctor’s office, but others with long-term respiratory problems may need a personal nebulizer for daily treatment.

Two basic types of nebulizers

Nebulizers come in home and portable models.

A home (or tabletop) nebulizer is designed to be stationary and needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. While a portable nebulizer offers more flexibility, patients may prefer a tabletop nebulizer because it is more cost effective.

Portable nebulizers can be used at home or on the go. They are lighter, hand held, and ideal for people who need to travel a lot or otherwise cannot rely on a tabletop nebulizer for daily treatments. Portable models are battery operated and usually can be plugged into a car charger as well. 

To make breathing treatment a better experience for pediatric patients, nebulizers are also available in fun shapes and colors. 

Nebulizer medicine

Nebulizers are used to deliver two main types of medications:

  • Bronchodilators (airway-opening medications) including albuterol, formoterol, levalbuterol, and salmeterol
  • Corticosteroids (to fight inflammation) including budesonide, flunisolide, fluticasone, and triamcinolone

In some cases, antibiotics can also be delivered through a nebulizer to treat serious respiratory infections.

Because Hawthorne is a compounding pharmacy, we are able to custom compound many of the medicines used in nebulizers. If you need more than one medicine, this prevents you from having to open and pour multiple vials, or measure and mix medicine yourself. Compounded medicines are premixed and ready for use.

Nebulizer vs. inhaler for patients with asthma

Should people with asthma use a nebulizer or an inhaler to deliver medicine to their lungs?

It depends, and each delivery method has pros and cons.

For convenience, inhalers win. Nebulizers can be bulky, while inhalers are more portable and easy to carry around. A nebulizer can take up to 10-15 minutes to deliver the medication needed, whereas inhalers are much quicker to use. Inhalers are also more cost effective.

However, nebulizers are more user friendly. Once the liquid medicine is added, all you need to do is turn the nebulizer on and breathe normally through the mask or mouthpiece. Nebulizers are a good option for asthma patients such as young children who may have trouble operating an inhaler, or for adults with severe asthma. Unlike an inhaler, a nebulizer requires minimal effort or technique to use effectively.

We can help

You’re juggling a lot right now. It’s important to know that there’s a reliable healthcare provider in your corner like Hawthorne to help see you and your family through an often-confusing healthcare system. Skilled, focused, and immensely knowledgeable, our team of dedicated pharmacists and technicians are here to help you with whatever you need—whether it’s prescription fulfillment, specialty compounding, or medical equipment support.

Our respiratory therapist can help train you on your equipment. They can also provide follow ups and physician reporting.

Explore our catalog of respiratory equipment online, or stop by any one of our Midlands locations to speak with our staff about your medical equipment needs.

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