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How to Use a Nebulizer

how to use a nebulizerA nebulizer transforms liquid medication into mist, allowing it to be inhaled directly into the lungs. Nebulizer treatments can be used for immediate relief of symptoms, or for maintenance, to help control symptoms.

Breathing treatments through a nebulizer are particularly effective for delivering:

  • Asthma medication to infants and children
  • Large doses of medication
  • Medication to people who have difficulty using a regular inhaler

How to Use a Nebulizer

In order for a nebulizer to provide effective treatment, it must be used correctly. For instructions on proper use, read: Types of Breathing Treatments for COPD. If, after reading the instructions, you continue to have difficulty, make an appointment with your doctor for a demonstration.

Cleaning Your Nebulizer

Nebulizers are manufactured for either home or portable use. Cleaning and disinfecting your nebulizer on a regular basis will ensure you get the right amount of medication while preventing infection.

Be sure to keep an extra nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece on hand in case of emergencies. Clean your nebulizer in a dust-free/smoke-free area away from open windows as follows:

  • After each treatment, rinse the nebulizer cup with warm water. Shake off excess water and allow to air dry.
  • After the last dose at the end of the day, wash the nebulizer cup, mask, or mouthpiece in warm, soapy water. Rinse and allow to air dry overnight. You need not wash the compressor tubing.
  • Every third day, wash the equipment as described above, then disinfect using a vinegar and water solution (1/2 cup vinegar to 1 ½ cups water.) You may also use what’s recommended by the manufacturer. Allow to soak for 20 minutes and rinse well. Shake off excess water and allow to air dry. Once completely dry, place in re-sealable, plastic bag to store.

Storing Your Nebulizer

Keep the following in mind when storing your nebulizer:

  • Clean the compressor using a clean, damp cloth as needed. Replace the filter per the manufacturer’s instruction.
  • Cover the compressor with a clean dry cloth when not in use.
  • Avoid placing the compressor on the floor during use or when storing.
  • Store medications in a cool, dry place unless the manufacturer recommends they be refrigerated.
  • Check medication expiration dates Discard medications that have expired, become discolored, or crystallized.


“Nebulizers: Home and Portable.” WebMD. Last reviewed May 10, 2014.

by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN

3 thoughts on “How to Use a Nebulizer”

  1. Avatar James Anderson says:

    It sure is nice that you've said that one should keep an extra nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece on hand in case of emergencies. My brother has asthma but we never thought of getting a nebulizer because he usually gets better a few hours of rest and getting fresh air. I'll mention to them that we should get him a nebulizer and an extra cup and mouthpiece if ever there is an emergency.

  2. Avatar Joe Eng says:

    As a child I had asthma. I managed to stop my asthma by learning to play the trumpet.(I guess anything you have to blow into would help. It was difficult at first but it definitely helped improve my lungs. Now living in Houston, the quality of air is pretty bad, what with construction and traffic it's no surprise to me that this had a huge effect on my breathing..time to look out the trumpet again I think…Sorry neighbors! lol!

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Thank you for your contribution Joe! Playing the trumpet sounds wonderful too.

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