nebulizer use by a child with asthmaA nebulizer is a machine that turns a liquid medication into a mist that can be inhaled into the lungs. A nebulizer is frequently used in the treatment of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory diseases.

Many people can take their asthma or COPD medications with a handheld inhaler (also called a metered dose inhaler, or MDI). However, young children and older adults may have difficulty using an inhaler. The nebulizer provides an alternative way of delivering the medication that some people find easier to use.

Most nebulizers are small air compressors that are easy to carry around. Some called “ultrasonic nebulizers" use sound to turn the liquid into mist. They are quieter, but they are more expensive. Portable nebulizers, powered by an internal battery or cigarette lighter, are available for people requiring treatments away from home.

Medicines that can be used with a nebulizer include:

  • albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil)
  • ipratropium bromide (Atrovent).

How to use a nebulizer


There are basics steps involved in setting up and using a nebulizer. However, each nebulizer is slightly different and may require special instructions for proper use.


  1. Connect the hose to an air compressor.
  2. Place the medication in the medication cup. The medication is in liquid form and may be packaged in a bottle or in single dose unit. Place the amount of medication prescribed by your doctor.
  3. Attach the hose and mouthpiece to the medicine cup.
  4. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth. Breathe through your mouth until all the medicine is used. (This may take 10 to 15 minutes). Some people use a nose clip to help them breathe only through their mouth. Small children may inhale more of the medication if they wear a mask.
  5. Wash the medicine cup and mouthpiece with water, and air dry until your next treatment.

Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.


© 2010 Vivacare.Last updated November 15, 2011.

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