Key points about nebulisers

  • Nebulisers are used for the treatment of conditions that affect the airways and lungs such as asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis.
  • A nebuliser is a machine that converts liquid medication into a fine mist, which is breathed in through a mask or mouthpiece.
  • Find out how to use it safely and possible side effects.
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 A nebuliser is a machine that converts liquid medication into a fine mist, which is breathed in through a mask or mouthpiece. In this way medication is able to reach the lungs.  

With so many improved handheld inhaler devices there is now less need for nebulisers.

  • Generally, nebulisers are not preferred because they deliver a high dose of medication which can increase the chance of side effects.
  • In most instances a handheld inhaler device together with a spacer is just as effective as a nebuliser, to get medication to the lungs.
  • Research proves that spacers are just as effective in acute asthma for adults and more effective for children than nebulisers. 

In some situations where the use of a handheld inhaler device is not suitable, such as in young children, or very sick people, using a nebuliser is an alternative. A nebuliser is mainly used for reliever medicine, but it may also be used for administering antibiotics, or hypertonic saline.

If the use of a nebuliser is recommended for a short period of time, then you may want to consider hiring a nebuliser. Many pharmacies offer the service of nebuliser hire, so check with your local pharmacy.

If the use of a nebuliser is recommended long-term, on an ongoing basis, then you may want to buy a nebuliser. There are different types of nebulisers on the market and the choice of nebuliser is mainly based on preference. Some points to consider when buying a nebuliser are:

  • Is the nebuliser suitable for the medicine you have been prescribed. Not all medications can be used with types of nebulisers.
  • Your medical condition— depending on your condition you will need your nebulisation more or less often, your nebulisation time will vary as well. Before choosing your nebuliser get advice on the technical workings that best matches your needs.  
  • Is it battery operated or electrical?
  • Is it noisy or quiet?
  • Do you need to carry the nebuliser everywhere such as if you travel a lot? 
  • Cost
  • What type of accessories does it need? 

Most nebulisers come with detailed instructions on how to use it. Here is some general guidance:

    • Place the prescribed amount of medicine into the nebuliser chamber.
    • Connect the nebuliser to the tubing and attach to the machine.
    • Attach the mouthpiece / mask to the chamber and switch on the machine. 
    • If using the mouthpiece seal your lips around it and breathe through your mouth, not your nose. If using a mask place it over your mouth and nose. 
    • Do not talk while using the nebuliser.
    • Keep the nebuliser upright while in use.
    • When you no longer see a mist, which will be after 10-15 minutes, the treatment is finished.

Please note the nebuliser in the video may differ from the type of nebuliser you are using.

(American Lung Association, 2019)

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Credits: Healthify He Puna Waiora editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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