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Nebuliser: everything you need to know

Woman using a nebuliser
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What is a nebuliser?

If you’re living with asthma, COPD or another respiratory condition you may have read about nebulisers, or your healthcare professional may have recommend that you use a nebuliser machine.

A nebuliser is an electronic device which works by transforming liquid medicine into a fine mist or spray which can then be easily breathed in via a mask or mouthpiece. They are used when a larger dose of medicine needs to be inhaled into the lungs, or when an inhaler alone is proving to be an inadequate form of treatment.

How does a nebuliser work?

These respiratory machines deliver fast and effective treatment to those who need it.

  1. The device users a compressor to force oxygen or air through the liquid medicine that sits in the chamber of the machine.
  2. This action causes the liquid medication to be turned into a breathable mist.
  3. This mist is then drawn into the connecting tube by the person breathing through the mask or mouthpiece alongside the compressor pumping the medication into your lungs.

What solution to use in a nebuliser

Nebulisers can be used with an array of medicines from salt water solutions to antibiotics, depending on your own individual needs. They can be used to help clear phlegm and reduce the thickness of mucus so that it can be coughed up a lot easier.

Why would you use a nebuliser?

They’re an invaluable device when it comes to treating anyone, however they are especially useful for children who may also be living with a condition such as, asthma or cystic fibrosis.

Nebulisers can help with:

  • wheezing
  • breathlessness
  • feelings of tightness in your chest
  • to control mucus and phlegm building up

If your inhaler hasn’t worked as expected, you may be advised to use a nebuliser. Or if you have been admitted to hospital due to a flare up, or asthma attack or exacerbated breathlessness.

When can I use one?

They're ideal if you are unable to use your handheld inhaler due to an illness or infection, or if you need to take a larger dose on your medication in one breath. The accompanying mask easily fits around your face to deliver the maximum amount of medication or you can use a mouthpiece that is placed between the lips.

What are the benefits of using a nebuliser?

The machine’s design means that a large amount of medication can be inhaled by the user in one go which can be more effective. They are also used for longer periods of time to allow for more medicine to flow into the lungs

One of the other main advantages of nebulisers is that they can be portable and compact, depending the type of device available to you. They’re designed to be used for both intensive and occasional use depending on your circumstances and needs.

Make sure to speak to your healthcare professional if you are unsure which one is right for you. If your inhaler technique is good and your condition is managed effectively, then you may never need to use a nebuliser.

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What types of nebulisers are available?

Your healthcare practitioner will be able to advise which type of nebuliser is right for you. However, the more common one in today’s market is a compressor which uses an aerosol like compressor to turn liquid into mists. The other type available is known as ultrasonic, these work by using high frequency sound waves and vibrations to make liquid medication breathable.

Nebulisers are also separated into categories by whether they are portable or not. Perhaps a smaller portable one, like the OMRON hand held portable nebuliser is ideal for when you’re on the go. Its fast and quiet workings make it a great choice for children and it comes complete with two masks, one for adults and one for children.

A more robust and sturdy station design would be good for home use as well. Compact devices provide a high nebulisation time that makes them ideal for treating upper and lower respiratory tract issues. These devices also come with a range of masks and mouthpieces to suit different users, including children.

Can you get a nebuliser on the NHS?

It may be possible for you to receive a nebuliser from the NHS, and in some areas your local respiratory support service can arrange for you to use one of these devices. This may incur a fee, so make sure to check with your healthcare provider what options are available to you.

If you can't get a nebuliser on the NHS you can buy them online, or talk to one of our expert pharmacists in you local store today. However, the medication that you need to use alongside a nebuliser can be provided on a prescription from your doctor. Make sure to discuss this and your needs with your healthcare practitioner.

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