Woman using nebulizer

Choosing the Right Nebulizer for You

When searching for a nebulizer system or any nebulizer products, it is important to understand the function of a nebulizer system and the benefits of nebulizer use.

A nebulizer is a machine that converts certain medications from a liquid to a mist that can then be inhaled into a patient’s lungs. Its purpose is similar to that of an asthma inhaler, and often times it is used as an alternative to a metered dose inhaler (MDI). Generally those who require a nebulizer for treatment are those who do not use an inhaler effectively and thus do not get the most from their respiratory medication. It is estimated that 50% of people who use an inhaler do so without receiving the intended amount of medicine to their lungs. Due to the difficulty of using an MDI effectively, or upon a doctor’s recommendation, many people decide to use a nebulizer system, especially for children or older adults.

If you’ve decided that using a nebulizer for respiratory treatment is right for you or a loved one then you’ll probably want some guidance in finding the right one. There are several different nebulizer systems on the market today but all of them fall within a few basic categories with distinctive features.

Basic Categories

Tabletop Nebulizer Systems:

  • Designed to be used indoors and be placed on a sturdy and still surface
  • Generally are less expensive than handheld nebulizer systems and come with a longer warranty
  • May be more suitable for small children or infants who require stationery use

Handheld Nebulizer Systems:

  • Grant the user more mobility during treatment times because the system operates while being held
  • Normally are more compatible with power sources other than AC cords (like a 12V DC auto adaptor or a battery)
  • Usually smaller and lighter than tabletop nebulizer systems

Among handheld and tabletop nebulizer systems there are two distinctly different methods of nebulization, or ways in which the liquid medication is converted into an aerosol mist.

Types of Systems

Piston-Pump Compressor (also called Jet or Aerosol Nebulizers):

  • Delivers air from a piston-powered compressor through the liquid medication (normally through use of tubing and nebulizer cup) which creates the breathable mist
  • Generally less expensive than ultrasonic nebulizers but are shown to be just as clinically effective at treating most respiratory conditions
  • Have a tendency to be a little noisy

Ultrasonic Nebulizers:

  • Use high-frequency sound vibrations to turn a medication into a mist
  • Silent and tend to deliver medication more quickly than jet nebulizers
  • Aerosol particles are generally smaller and more uniform in size
  • Generally more recommended for patients using a nebulizer system to treat cystic fibrosis

Things to Think About

    Who is the nebulizer for?

  1. If it’s for a child you should consider buying equipment designed for kids with colorful or playful themes. If it’s for an infant you may need to make sure you have an infant inhalation mask or other necessary accessories.
  2. Where will you use it?

  3. Portability and battery packs are important if you're frequently on-the-go.
  4. Are you buying compatible components?

  5. Some manufacturers design nebulizer accessories to be compatible only with their own products. Make sure you are buying the correct parts.
  6. How often do nebulizer accessories need to be renewed?

  7. Most nebulizer products require regular maintenance and cleaning. For accessories like nebulizer cups, mouthpieces, tubing, or compressor air filters; there are recommended periods of use, after which the product may lose its effectiveness. Be sure to stay aware of which items are reusable or disposable and how often these items need to be replaced.
  8. Storage and Cleaning:

  9. Sterilization and cleaning of respiratory products is very important to ensure you get the most out of the products and receive the best level of treatment. Be mindful of how to store an item between uses.

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