A nebulizer is a hand-held medical device that delivers medication via an inhaled mist. It uses an air compressor, called a nebulizer compressor, to pump air through the device. Together, the compressor, compressed air, and nebulizer turn the medicine into an aerosol that the patient breathes in through a mouthpiece or a mask.
One of the most common uses for a nebulizer compressor is in the treatment of lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or other pulmonary disorders. In the treatment of such lung diseases, physicians often use a nebulizer to dispense a mist of medication called a bronchodilator. A bronchodilator expands the airways in the lungs and allows a person with restricted breathing capabilities to breathe easier.
People who suffer from lung problems can have acute episodes of breathing difficulty, and oral medications may not provide the immediate relief they require. Inhalers and nebulizers are two methods that can quickly deliver the medications that expand the airways and provide the necessary relief. An inhaler delivers medication in one quick measured dose, whereas a nebulizer dispenses a medicated mist over the course of 10 to 15 minutes.
Researchers say the effectiveness of the two delivery methods is similar. An inhaler provides immediate relief of breathing problems and is completely portable; a nebulizer compressor delivers similar relief over a period of time, but is less portable. For young children, the elderly, and those individuals without the ability or coordination to correctly operate the inhaler, the nebulizer might be a good option.
A nebulizer compressor is typically easy to operate. The nebulizer system consists of an air compressor, plastic air tubing, and a mask or mouthpiece. A patient or caregiver places the physician-specified dose of medicine into the cup of the nebulizer. After connecting the nebulizer to the compressor via the plastic connecting hose and turning on the power to the unit, a fine mist of the desired medication is delivered to the patient.
There are many types of nebulizer compressors on the market. Some units are smaller and more portable than others. An electrical outlet is required for some machines, but some are battery powered or can plug into a car's cigarette lighter. The portability and convenience of nebulizer compressors can offer freedom and peace of mind to people who otherwise might need to take a trip to the emergency room.