Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

Nebulizer Basics

Published March - 5 - 2009 Print This Post


    A nebulizer is a medical device that delivers liquid medication in the form of a mist to the airways.
    There are many models and price ranges for nebulizers.

    Nebulizer compressors force air through tubing into a medicine cup filled with liquid medicine. The force of the air breaks the liquid into tiny mist-like particles that can be inhaled deeply into the airways.
    A new generation of nebulizers uses vibration instead of forced air (which is noisy) or ultrasound. These units are very small, battery operated and quiet. (Note: Pulmicort Respules® cannot be used in most ultrasonic nebulizers.)
    A nebulizer is only as good as the person using it. You and your childcare provider will need to be taught the correct way to set up, use, clean, and store the nebulizer with confidence.
    Learn to use your nebulizer according to manufacturer’s instructions and always follow the physician’s written prescribing guidelines. Practice assembling the nebulizer components and become familiar with correct use of the medications.
    Sit in a comfortable chair in a calming environment as you give the treatment to your little one. Your confidence is comforting to your baby. If you are restless, unsure, or fearful, you will transfer these unspoken feelings to your baby. Your baby will not understand and will likely resist the breathing treatment.
    You may feel uncomfortable placing a mask over your baby’s mouth and nose. However, until your baby is old enough to use a mouthpiece, holding chamber with mask or handheld inhaler, this is the only way to ensure your baby gets his much needed medication.
    Sometimes, parents and childcare providers will aim the mist at the baby’s face while he is sleeping thinking that this is a good way to sneak a breathing treatment past him. This practice is called a blow-by treatment, which is an appropriate name for an ineffective practice. The medication blows right by the baby’s face and does not reach the airways. In fact, it is more likely that the parent will inhale more medicine than the baby.
    When AANMA was filming a nebulizer video for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, a nurse insisted on giving her baby a blow-by treatment. Not only did her baby actively resist the mist aimed at his face, the camera shows that the medication never reached the baby’s nose or mouth – not even once.
    The medication must be actively inhaled by the baby for it to reach the airways. Passive breathing will not relax the muscles wrapped around the airways or relieve airway inflammation.