A nebulizer is a breathing machine used to treat lung conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory illnesses. They administer medication in the form of a mist that's inhaled into the lungs and are often used in situations in which using an inhaler is difficult or ineffective. Nebulizers are also used to limit the side effects of medications like steroids by delivering the medicine directly to the respiratory system.

There are two types of nebulizers: atomizer jet and ultrasonic. The atomizer, or "compressor nebulizer," is the most common. This type uses an aerosol compressor to vaporize droplets of medicine. Ultrasonic, or "mesh nebulizers," use high-frequency sound waves to make liquid medicine breathable. While ultrasonic models produce results comparable to jet nebulizers, they offer faster delivery of medication and operate more quietly. With both types of nebulizer, the patient inhales vapor through a mouthpiece or face mask.

There are a variety of nebulizers on the market, ranging in price from $50 to around $200. Both the jet and ultrasonic nebulizer systems come in tabletop or portable models and a variety of accessories and supplies are available for each. Tabletop nebulizers are intended for home use, as they need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Portable units are battery-powered and small enough to fit into a bag or purse for travel; however, they tend to be more expensive and require disposable or rechargeable batteries or a car power adapter to run.

Consult your healthcare provider to find the appropriate unit for your needs.