Reaching for your nebulizer if you have asthma or other respiratory problems becomes as natural as putting on your glasses in the morning if you have vision problems. Nebulizers deliver liquid or aerosol medications that help you breathe to your lungs via a mask or mouthpiece. Medications given via nebulizer can treat acute conditions or can prevent respiratory problems from developing. Nebulizers have benefits as a treatment for lung disease over oral medications or inhalers.
Effective Medication Delivery
Nebulizers send medications where they’re needed most — your lungs. Unlike systemic medications, which take time to pass through the gastrointesinal tract to your bloodstream, nebulizers deliver medications very quickly directly to the respiratory tract. Albuterol, a commonly used bronchodilator, begins to work in around five minutes when given in nebulizer form, compared to around 30 minutes when given orally, the American Association for Respiratory Care reports.
What a Nebulizer Does
The word nebulize means to reduce to a fine spray or mist, and that’s exactly what a nebulizer does. A nebulizer uses forced air or vibrations to turn liquid medicine into a fine mist. Nebulizers are often used in emergency departments to treat acute asthma attacks or other sudden breathing problems. Compact nebulizers and portable models are available for home use, and for some people, they are preferable to inhalers.
How a Nebulizer Treatment Works
In addition to the component that actually nebulizes the medication, a nebulizer’s parts include a container to hold the medicine and plastic tubing that connects the container to a face mask or mouth piece. Treatments can be self-administered. Most nebulizers emit a constant stream of mist, which the user inhales deeply after four or five normal breaths. While taking the treatment, it’s a good idea to tap the nebulizer cup to ensure the medication is circulating through the system. Treatments normally last from 10 to 20 minutes. Clean your nebulizer to reduce the risk of contamination. More specific guidance on correct use is available in product labeling for nebulizers and package inserts for medications.
Nebulizer treatments can prevent respiratory problems from developing as well as treat acute breathing emergencies. Long-term bronchodilators taken on a daily basis can keep the bronchial tubes open. Steroids reduce inflammation and mucus production in the lungs, which can block oxygen flow.
Ease of Use
Nebulizers require very little effort to use. Unlike inhalers, which generally require you to breathe in when you release the medication, the medication in a nebulizer treatment flows continuously. You breathe normally during the treatment. Newer nebulizers are small enough to be portable, although not quite as portable as inhalers, which fit easily into a pocket. Powered by battery or electricity, nebulizers take between five and 10 minutes to deliver a full dose of medication. Even babies or severely debilitated people can receive medication by nebulizer.
Fewer Side Effects
Nebulizer therapy reduces the risk of side effects compared to oral administration of the same medications. Nebulizers have a lower risk of short-term side effects such as headache, tremors or rapid heartbeat. Nebulizers also reduce the risk of long-term complications of steroids such as bone loss, weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood glucose or susceptibility to infection.