Last updated: 08/13/2020

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Unpleasant respiratory conditions often come back during the cold winter months. If you have a baby or children at home, you know just how much a simple cold can become complicated. Having a nebulizer at home will help you relax; that way, you can deal with a bad dry cough or clean your little one’s bronchi.

To avoid potential health conditions, there are essential hygiene and cleaning measures to take when performing nebulizations at home. If you haven’t sterilized the nebulizer, for instance, the user “may inhale bacterial or viral particles and a common case may be complicated by a serious infection” (1). In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about these devices to help solve any doubts you have.

Key Facts

  • A nebulizer is a system designed to treat respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchiolitis, and rhinitis. You can also purchase other devices to control these conditions: pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and dry-powder inhalers (DPIs) (2). You will learn more about them later on.
  • Treating airway and lung conditions through nebulizations has its pros and cons. On the one hand, you don’t require special techniques to use this device. On the downside, it takes longer to administer the medication than with an inhaler, and germs can be transported if you do not take the appropriate hygiene measures (2).
  • Different types of nebulizers exist: jet, ultrasonic, and mesh. In addition to this, you will have to evaluate various key aspects to choose the most appropriate model for your needs. The atomized particles should be no larger than 5 microns, for instance. You may also want to look at the weight, size, and noise produced by the nebulizer.

Our Selection: The Best Nebulizers on the U.S. Market

As we have just mentioned, there are various kinds of nebulizers available out there. While certain models are small and portable, others are larger and will require to be connected to a power outlet. This wide range of options can make it difficult for you to pick the right nebulizer, which is why we have selected some of the most popular devices currently on the market. You can learn more about each one in the descriptions below:

Best Nebulizer for Children & Parents

This handheld mesh nebulizer is a quality device with high atomization capacities to produce particles of no more than 3 microns. Delivered with one adult mask and one child mask, it is easy to operate and makes very little noise. The LED indicator tells you when the battery is running low or when the solution is almost finished, while the auto-clean mode is an innovative feature to keep the device in optimal condition.

Best Jet Nebulizer

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This type of nebulizer tends to be heavier and take more space, which is why it is ideal for use at home. Capable of atomizing particles from 0.5 to 5 microns, it produces 60 decibels of noise when in operation. This disposable nebulizer kit includes a compressor, a tube to transport the spray, and a mouthpiece for the user. Note that the manufacturer offers a five-year warranty on this product.

Best Nebulizer for Traveling

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If you’re really looking for the most suitable nebulizer when you’re on holiday or traveling for work, this portable mesh model is exactly what you need. Weighing in at less than eight ounces, it is incredibly compact and could even fit in your pocket. In comes with two masks for adults and children, and its rechargeable battery can last up to three hours.

Quietest Nebulizer

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This model is simply the quietest nebulizer in our selection, with less than 25 decibels produced when in use. It has another particularly interesting feature: the two inhalation methods it offers. Indeed, this device comes with a mask and a mouthpiece so you can choose which is most comfortable for your child or yourself. The particle size does not exceed 5 microns, with an atomization rate of 2.5 ml per minute.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Nebulizers

Have you been prescribed a liquid medication to inhale? Then you should know that a nebulizer will transform that liquid into a spray. This allows the medication to reach deep into your lungs, thus increasing its efficiency. That being said, many of us still have doubts regarding the type of nebulizer we need. In the following section, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding these devices.

kid with nebulizer

If you have a baby or children at home, you know just how much a simple cold can become complicated.
(Source: Oksana: Kuzmina: 53471277/ 123rf.com)

What is a nebulizer exactly?

This medical device converts a liquid drug (prescribed to treat the airways) into tiny drops that are inhaled by the patient into a gas cloud using a face mask. In other words, a compressed gas (air or oxygen) acts on the medication located in a reservoir to generate spray particles (3).

Bronchodilators can be administered through a nebulizer, but also through pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and dry-powder inhalers (DPIs). Pressurized models stand out for providing a precise dose of medication that you can directly inhale into your airways. DPIs, on the other hand, are small and portable.

Martin A.R. & Finlay W.H.Publication in Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery

“While the limelight may often appear to be focused on other delivery devices, such as pressurized metered dose and dry powder inhalers, the ease of formulating many drugs in water and delivering them as aqueous aerosols ensures that nebulizers will remain as a viable and relevant method of respiratory drug delivery.”

What types of nebulizers are there?

As mentioned earlier, there are three types of nebulizers: jet or pneumatic, ultrasonic, and mesh. The former feature a compressor to provide airflow. They also have a reservoir – where the liquid is placed – that is connected to a tube through which oxygen passes.
Upon contact with the liquid at high speed, this produces the aerosol.

In ultrasonic nebulizers, on the other hand, the particles to be inhaled are produced by high-frequency ultrasonic waves. These waves go through a water container that serves as the base for the medication. Note that this type of nebulizer isn’t suitable for all classes of commonly prescribed drugs.

Mesh nebulizers integrate a small vibrating mesh plate. The medication passes through microscopic holes to create the spray. These devices tend to be very small and lightweight (weighing less than 4 ounces). Besides, they are popular for their low noise emission and electricity consumption.

What are the differences between a nebulizer and an inhaler?

Both of these devices were created to treat respiratory system conditions by administering inhaled medications. While their purpose is for the drugs to reach the lungs directly, they do have several differences. You can compare nebulizers and inhalers in the table below (4):

Nebulizer Inhaler
Drug-administering method Tiny liquid droplets inside a gas cloud Small solid particles
Advantages No special technique required.

Easy inhalation through a mouthpiece.

Drug mixtures can be aerosolized.

You can use it while breathing normally.

Useful in all patient profiles.

You can modify the concentration of the medication.

Quick access to the respiratory system.

It requires a lower dose of the active substance.

Few side effects.

Small and easy to carry.

Disadvantages  The delivery of the drug takes longer (10 minutes) than an inhaler (20 seconds).

It may carry germs.

You need a power source to use it.

It may cause bronchial hyperreactivity (2).

You have to learn the proper administration technique.

Failure to shake the inhaler may alter the drug dosage.

It can only deliver set concentrations of the drug.

Limited range of medication.

How should I use my nebulizer?

These devices are actually very easy to operate. However, the appropriate medication delivery system must combine with the patient’s ability to use it correctly for aerosol therapy to be effective (5). Here are some guidelines for you to follow:

  • Open the lid of the nebulizer cup.
  • Add the medication (≦ 10 ml).
  • Close the lid.
  • Connect the mouthpiece or mask.
  • Wait between 15 and 25 minutes (until the drug is consumed).
  • Disassemble and clean each part of the nebulizer separately.

How do I disinfect my nebulizer?

As written in the instructions above, you are advised to wash every part of your nebulizer after each use (including the mouthpiece, cup, and mask). Start by disassembling the device. The mouthpiece or mask and medicine cup can be cleaned in the dishwasher or with warm soapy water. Do not immerse the tubes in water.

Some experts, on the other hand, recommend against placing nebulizer components in boiled water or cleaning them with alcohol. Instead, they suggest immersing the parts in a solution of vinegar and water (with a 1:3 ratio) for 10 to 30 minutes. In any case, you should always consult the manufacturer’s instructions to best care for your device.

Regardless of how frequently you use it, you must wash your nebulizer in a water and white vinegar solution at least once a week. When you’re done, leave the different components to dry in a cool, dry place, preferably in the open air. You can clean the compressor and pipes with a soapy washcloth or disinfectant, without submerging them in water.

Buyer’s Guide

As you know, there is a wide range of nebulizers currently available on the market – from small mesh models to larger ultrasonic devices. To pick the most suitable one, you will have to evaluate a series of critical shopping criteria. We have done half of the work for you by delving into these aspects in the following paragraphs:

Type of Nebulizer

The various kinds of nebulizers work differently. As we explained earlier, jet devices come with a compressor that provides airflow. Oxygen passes through a tube and the reservoir where the medication is located to produce the spray upon contact.

While these are the most common, you can also find ultrasonic nebulizers. In these models, high-frequency ultrasonic waves produce the particles to be inhaled. Remember that they will not work with all classes of drugs. Mesh nebulizers, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, lighter, and quieter.

little girl with nebulizer

Bronchodilators can be administered through a nebulizer, but also through pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and dry-powder inhalers (DPIs).
(Source: Roman023: 92160261/ 123rf.com)

Size of Atomized Particles

Generally speaking, we can say that the smaller the atomized particles are, the more efficient the nebulizer will be. Their size is expressed in microns, a unit of length equivalent to one-thousandth of a millimeter and whose symbol is µm. Taking this into account, we advise you to opt for a model that can atomize particles to no more than 5 µm, as they will more easily deposit in the lungs.

Sound Intensity

The majority of nebulizers usually emit around 46 decibels (dB) of noise on average, although you can find louder models that reach 65 dB or over. Fortunately for us, manufacturers have now developed devices that produce sound equal to or less than 30 dB. Some nebulizers include fairly quiet compressors, while others that work with ultrasound generate very little noise at all. Take this into consideration if noise levels are important to you.

Mariam Ibrahim, Rahul Verma & Lucila Garcia-ContrerasInhalation Drug Delivery Devices: Technology Update

“The pulmonary route of administration has proven to be effective in local and systemic delivery of miscellaneous drugs and biopharmaceuticals to treat pulmonary and non-pulmonary diseases. A successful pulmonary administration requires a harmonic interaction between the drug formulation, the inhaler device, and the patient.”

Nebulizer Size

With the technological advances in the medical industry, devices have a tendency to become smaller and smaller. Nebulizers are no strangers to this phenomenon. This is why you can now purchase models that can be held in one hand. Large nebulizers are still being manufactured, however, and the size does not affect the quality of the equipment.

In that regard, we encourage you to consider how you plan on using your device before making your purchase. That way, you can choose a smaller nebulizer if you are often traveling, or a more suitable model for use on your children at home. In any case, the device you buy should be easy to use. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions beforehand.

Weight

In the same vein, modern nebulizers tend to weigh less and less. In fact, you can now find devices that weigh less than four ounces. Combined with their reduced size, this makes them particularly easy to take with you. While these portable models are common, others still weigh over two pounds. So if you’re looking for a nebulizer to have with you at all times, a lightweight model will be your best option.

girl reading in a nebulizer therapy

The various kinds of nebulizers work differently.
(Source: Serezniy: 111203985/ 123rf.com)

Summary

Nebulizers are medical devices designed to deliver liquid drugs by inhalation through a mouthpiece or mask. Despite the different types available (jet, ultrasonic, or mesh), all are intended to transform the medication into a spray. This allows particles of 5 microns (one-thousandth of a millimeter) or less to reach the bronchi.

Nebulizers are used in the treatment of different diseases of the respiratory system, such as asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In any case, you should never self-medicate; always consult your physician before using a nebulizer on your children or yourself. And don’t forget to clean and sterilize it after each use.

Did you find our shopping guide on nebulizers helpful and informative? If that’s the case, we would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below. You can also share this article on your social media for others to read and learn!

(Source of featured image: Belchonock: 98130796/ 123rf.com)

References (5)

1. Sánchez E. Terapia de nebulizaciones, para respirar mejor [Internet]. elpais.com.co. 2018 [cited 2 October 2019].
Source

2. Hess D, Myers T, Rau J. Una Guía de Dispositivos para Aerosolterapia [Internet]. Buenos Aires; 2019.
Source

3. Benito Fernández, Javier, “Tratamiento con broncodilatadores en urgencias de pediatría: nebulización versus inhalación con cámara espaciadora”, Archivos de pediatría del Uruguay, vol. 74, n° 2, Montevideo, Agosto 2003.
Source

4. Ministerio de salud de la nación. Nebulización vs IDM. Buenos Aires; 2012 p.
Source

5. Cox Fuenzalida P. Cómo usar un nebulizador: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. Medlineplus.gov. 2008 [cited 2 October 2019]. Available from:
Source

Why you can trust me?

Artículo científico
Sánchez E. Terapia de nebulizaciones, para respirar mejor [Internet]. elpais.com.co. 2018 [cited 2 October 2019].
Go to source
Artículo científico
Hess D, Myers T, Rau J. Una Guía de Dispositivos para Aerosolterapia [Internet]. Buenos Aires; 2019.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Benito Fernández, Javier, “Tratamiento con broncodilatadores en urgencias de pediatría: nebulización versus inhalación con cámara espaciadora”, Archivos de pediatría del Uruguay, vol. 74, n° 2, Montevideo, Agosto 2003.
Go to source
Informe oficial
Ministerio de salud de la nación. Nebulización vs IDM. Buenos Aires; 2012 p.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Cox Fuenzalida P. Cómo usar un nebulizador: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. Medlineplus.gov. 2008 [cited 2 October 2019]. Available from:
Go to source