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January 16, 2018

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Updated: Jan. 16 (10:59)

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Using a Nebulizer
Posted On: Jun 11, 2008

A nebulizer can be a real life saver for the patient in respiratory distress. However, while having a bout of acute respiratory distress is not the time to learn how to use one. When the doctor orders a nebulizer for home treatment or when changing models of nebulizer or medication, you should take a few minutes to go over the instructions and procedures. Your Community Fire Protection District medics recommend the following:



Read the equipment instructions completely before you use a nebulizer.  Even if you received personalized home instruction prior to use, follow these directions before you use a nebulizer as they will vary from one manufacturer to another.

Follow these steps to use a nebulizer: 

1. Wash your hands thoroughly before you use a nebulizer and make sure the equipment is clean..

2. If using a multi-dose bottle of medicine when you use a nebulizer, use a dropper to administer the correct dosage of medication into the cup with saline solution.  If the medicine is in single-use vials, twist the top off the plastic vial and squeeze the contents into the nebulizer cup.

3. Connect the mouthpiece, or mask, to the T-shaped elbow.  Fasten the unit to the cup.  For children older than 2, using a mouthpiece is recommended because it will deliver more medication than a mask.

4. Connect the nebulizer tubing to the port on the compressor.

5. Turn the compressor on and check the nebulizer for misting.  When using a finger valve, cover the air hole to force air into the nebulizer.  If you are not using a finger valve, the nebulizer will mist continually.

6. To use a nebulizer correctly, hold it in an upright position.  This will prevent spillage.

7. When you use a nebulizer, sit in a comfortable, upright position.  Place the mouthpiece between your teeth and close your lips around it.  When using a mask, be sure it fits well so the mist doesn’t get into your eyes.

8. Gently exhale. As the mist starts, inhale slowly through your mouth.  Take over three to five seconds for each breath while keeping your finger over the valve hole.

9. Hold your breath for up to 10 seconds before exhaling. This allows the medication time to deposit in the airway.

10. At the end of a deep breath, uncover the finger valve hole to stop the mist.

11. When you use a nebulizer, occasionally tap the side of the nebulizer to help the medication drop to where it can be misted. 

12. Continue until the medicine is gone from the cup.  The nebulizer will most likely begin sputtering when it is empty.

Follow these tips before and after you use a nebulizer:

• Order replacement supplies now so they will be on hand when needed.

• After you use a nebulizer, clean it according to instructions.  Neglecting to do so will promote bacteria growth. 

• Store your nebulizer and supplies in a clean, dry, and dust-free location.

• Dispose of nebulizer tubing that becomes cloudy or retains moisture.

• Replace disposable parts, tubing, and filters according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Using a nebulizer cup longer than indicated will result in slower, less efficient delivery of medication.

• When you use a nebulizer, always use a mask or mouthpiece when giving or taking a treatment.  Simply aiming the mist at a baby’s face does not ensure that any medication reaches small, swollen airways. 

• If treating infants and toddlers, purchase supplies that can be used when the child is in a reclined position or sleeping.

• Keep nebulizer batteries charged or have replacement batteries handy.

• Only use medications made specifically for nebulizers.  When you use a nebulizer, only use medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration as manufactured by a pharmaceutical company or licensed agent only.  These agents are sterile, contain no contaminants or unwanted particles, and are mixed in exact proportions.

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