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Asthma treatment with nebulisers

A nebuliser is a machine to deliver asthma medication by turning it into a mist to be inhaled through a face-mask or mouthpiece.

A nebuliser may be used for high doses of asthma reliever drugs in an emergency.

Home nebuliser therapy may also be recommended for some people who are unable to use asthma inhalers with spacers, including children.

How do I use a home asthma nebuliser?

To use an asthma nebuliser, you will need the following supplies:

  • Air compressor
  • Nebuliser cup
  • Mask or mouthpiece
  • Medication - either unit dose vials or bottles with measuring devices
  • Compressor tubing

Once you have the necessary supplies:

  • Place the air compressor on a sturdy surface that will support its weight. Plug in the compressor.
  • Before asthma treatment, wash your hands with soap and water and dry them completely.
  • Carefully measure medications exactly as you have been instructed and put them into the nebuliser cup. Most medications today come in pre-measured unit dose vials so measuring is not necessary. If you do measure, use a separate, clean measuring device for each medication.
  • Assemble the nebuliser cup and mask or mouthpiece.
  • Connect the tubing to both the aerosol compressor and nebuliser cup.
  • Turn on the compressor to make sure it is working correctly. You should see a light mist coming from the back of the tube opposite the mouthpiece.
  • Sit up straight on a comfortable chair. If the treatment is for your child, he or she may sit on your lap. If you are using a mask, position it comfortably and securely on your or your child's face. If you are using a mouthpiece, place it between your or your child's teeth and seal the lips around it.
  • Take slow, deep breaths. If possible, hold each breath for two to three seconds before breathing out. This allows the medication to settle into the airways.

Continue the treatment until the medication is gone (an average of 10 minutes). The nebuliser will make a sputtering noise, and the cup will have just a little medication remaining.

If dizziness or jitteriness occurs, stop the treatment and rest for about five minutes. Continue the treatment and try to breathe more slowly. If dizziness or jitteriness continues to be a problem with future treatments, tell your doctor.

During the treatment, if the medication sticks to the sides of the nebuliser cup, you may shake the cup to loosen the droplets.

How do I look after my home asthma nebuliser?


Cleaning and disinfecting your asthma nebuliser equipment is simple and very important. Proper care prevents infection. Cleaning should be done in a dust and smoke free area away from open windows.

Follow these instructions when cleaning your nebuliser:

  • After each treatment, rinse the nebuliser cup thoroughly with warm water, shake off excess water, and let it air dry. At the end of each day, the nebuliser cup, mask, or mouthpiece, should be washed in warm soapy water using a mild detergent, rinsed thoroughly, and allowed to air dry. You do not need to clean the compressor tubing.
  • Every third day, after washing your equipment, disinfect the equipment using either a vinegar/water solution or the disinfectant solution your equipment supplier suggests. To use the vinegar solution, mix 100 millilitres of white vinegar with 300 millilitres of water. Soak the equipment for 20 minutes and rinse well under a steady stream of water. Shake off the excess water and allow to air dry on a paper towel. Always allow the equipment to completely dry before storing in a plastic, sealed bag.
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