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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Nebuliser?

In medicine, a nebuliser (or nebulizer as it's sometimes spelt) is a delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist that's inhaled into the lungs. Nebulisers are often used for the treatment of respiratory diseases or disorders and they can be the best way to deliver a dose of medicine to someone who is struggling to breathe in an emergency situation. They can also be used by people who struggle with another device, such as an inhaler. Nebulisers aren’t used to treat mild or moderate symptoms as research has shown that in most cases a spacer can be just as effective. If you’re unsure at all you should contact your health professional before buying as it is they who will prescribe the medication.

Read more: What is a nebuliser?

How does a nebuliser work?

Most nebulisers are attached to a compressor. This sucks in air through a filter, compresses it and pressurised air passes through the tube into the nebuliser chamber, turning the liquid medicine into a mist. You can then breathe in this mist through a mask or mouthpiece. During an asthma attack, respiratory infection or COPD exacerbation this mist may be easier to inhale than the spray from a pocket inhaler. When your airways become narrow you can’t take deep breaths. For this reason, a nebuliser can at times be a more effective way to deliver the medication than an inhaler, which requires you to take a deep breath.

Read more: What is a nebuliser?

What is a vibrating mesh nebuliser?

Traditionally nebulisers can be bulky and noisy which is not very convenient when you’re in the cinema or planning a nice day out. Mesh technology enables a nebuliser to be smaller, extremely portable and virtually silent. The small metal mesh plate has 6,000 microscopic holes through which your medication is pushed at speed to form a visible mist. Vibrating mesh technology allows your medication to penetrate quickly and deeply into your lungs.

Read more: Mesh nebulisers. Practically featherweights

How do you use a nebuliser?

If you have been prescribed a nebuliser it is important that your healthcare professional explains how to use it. After washing your hands the basic steps are: connect the tube to the compressor, pour you prescription medication into the nebuliser cup, attach the tube to the bottom of the nebuliser cup and fit the mask or mouthpiece to the top. The nebuliser is then ready for you to inhale the medication.

Read more: What is a nebuliser?

Who would benefit from using a nebuliser?

If you suffer from COPD you may require one during an exacerbation or when your condition becomes more severe. Nebulisers can also be used to deliver medications to help reduce the thickness of your phlegm making it easier to cough it out, or to deliver antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection. Some medications target the build up of mucus and if you suffer from Cystic Fibrosis, Bronchiectasis or other lung diseases you may require a complex combination on a daily basis. Asthma however is rarely treated routinely with a nebuliser as for most people using a reliever with a spacer is equally effective.

Read more: What is a nebuliser?

What medication do you use in a nebuliser?

Medications such as Salbutamol are used in breathing disorders to relax the muscles in the airways of your lungs, helping to keep the airways open and making it easier to breathe, and can bring almost immediate relief from your symptoms. Others like Ipratropium take longer to become effective but the effect lasts longer if taken at routine prescribed intervals through the day.

Nebulised saline (0.9% saline) is used to aid airway clearance and sputum induction in a variety of respiratory disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis. Occasionally you may be recommended a stronger solution (7-9% saline) for short or long term use. It is also prescribed to provide moisture for those of you with a laryngectomy or tracheostomy.

Medicines such as Pulmicort are used to prevent attacks of breathlessness by reducing inflammation in your airways while others, such as Colomycin, are used to reduce any infection by killing certain types of bacteria. Both have very different usage and storage instructions and carry their own warnings. All medications carry risks and not all are suitable for everyone. Again, your pharmacist or health professional will be able to provide you any with specialist knowledge.

If you want to read more about your medication then check out this link: Medicines.org.uk - Electronic Medicines Compendium or for more information on your condition in general then look at NHS Choices - Health A-Z or have a look at our Useful Links for more resources.

Read more: So what do you really know about nebuliser medication?

How many times can you use a nebuliser?

Your health professional will decide if you can have a nebuliser at home and how often it can be used.

How long does a nebuliser treatment take?

The treatment time will vary depending on the size of the dose you have been advised to take. On average a 2.5ml salbutamol ampule will take approximately 6-10 minutes to nebulise. For some more viscose medications such as Colomycin, a standard dose would take approximately 18-20 minutes.

Can nebulisers be used by children?

Generally hospitals do not advocate the use of home nebulisers for children. It is clinically safer for children who need a nebuliser therapy to be treated in a setting where other vital signs can be monitored. However a consultant, G.P or specialist nurse may prescribe nebuliser therapy for home use if certain guidelines are followed.

The majority of our nebulisers come with a child mask included and for those that don’t this can be added on request.

Your choice will be influenced by the type of medication prescribed, how often your child may need nebuliser therapy and how portable you need the nebuliser to be.

If you’re confused or worried at all about your child there is lots of independent advice available and if you just need a little help making that final decision then why not give us a call?

Children benefit most from nebuliser therapy when: Large inhaled drug doses or pulmonary therapy is required; the child is too unwell or unable to co-ordinate drug delivery devices and/or specific medications are unavailable in hand held devices and a wider choice is needed.

Children with cystic fibrosis, or certain other respiratory disorders, who may require a home nebuliser should have regular contact with a cystic fibrosis specialist or a specialist respiratory nurse. More information can be found on the CF Trust website.

Read more: Nebulisers for Children

How do I clean a nebuliser?

At least once a week we get a call from a nebuliser user or their carers panicking because their unit isn’t working. Your first priority should always be to check your spares and accessories.

If you nebulise several times a day you must be conscientious about cleaning the medication chamber as it could become blocked and slow down your therapy. Cleaning instructions will vary depending on which nebuliser you have. Refer to the manufacturers instructions that are supplied with your machine.

Read more: Have you changed your accessories recently?

Where do I find a nebuliser that is used by the N.H.S?

There is not a standard model used across the N.H.S. Hospitals, wards, clinics, nurses and doctors have their own criteria which can be based on many different factors, and their criteria may not necessarily be the most appropriate for you at home.

We believe there are important aspects to consider when choosing a nebuliser to be used at home. A general all purpose unit that stacks easily on a shelf is not necessarily going to be the most suitable to allow you to continue going about your daily life. It may also be unsuitable for the medication you have been prescribed and it may need an annual service which could prove inconvenient if there isn't a service agent local to you. You could also run in to trouble if the spares and accessories aren't fit for purpose or readily available.

Initially choosing the right nebuliser to suit your needs may seem overwhelming. There is a lot of information out there but it's not as daunting as it might seem. Your Respiratory Nurse may already have a specific nebuliser in mind which they feel will be beneficial to your treatment plan and ouruseful linkswill be able to give you independent advice based on their years of experience.

Read more:NHS Hospital Nebulisers

Can I take my nebuliser on holiday?

In most cases the answer is yes but please check with the holiday company as the voltage in other countries or on a cruise ship may differ. Efficient portable nebulisers are available which have the advantage of being multi volt and can also be used from a 12v car lead or a battery. It is also advisable to check with the airline and let them know you will be travelling with a nebuliser.

Read more: Travelling with a Portable Nebuliser