People with lung conditions often rely on certain medications to help treat these diseases or alleviate symptoms. Oftentimes, a doctor will prescribe a nebulizer for the patient to use, making the medications easier to inhale. In order to receive the medication in this form, a patient normally uses a nebulizer mask.
A nebulizer mask is usually made out of rubber or clear vinyl. It consists of a mask that fits over the patient's nose and an adjustable elastic strap that fits around the head to keep the mask in place. Pediatric nebulizer masks for children also come in a variety of character shapes, such as dinosaurs or fish, to make children more comfortable using them.
Also known as an atomizer, a nebulizer works by changing a patient's medication from a liquid to a fine mist. This mist can then be inhaled into the lungs and absorbed more quickly than if ingested. The nebulizer mask helps administer the medication efficiently, keeping the stream of mist consistent and focused until the proper dosage has been given.
Nebulizer masks also provide an alternative to people who are unable to use an inhaler. Small children and elderly patients in particular may have difficulty holding an inhaler. The nebulizer mask, which stays in place on its own, can be both easier to use as well as easier to administer by a caregiver.
If a large dose of medication is needed, an inhaler might not be a sufficient means for delivery. A nebulizer mask can help provide such a large dose in a timely manner. It can also be used for a short-term treatment, such as administering medication for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as long-term maintenance for chronic illness, such as asthma. In the latter instance, nebulized medicine is referred to as breathing treatment.
Patients are advised to keep an extra nebulizer mask available in the case of an emergency. Instructions to keep nebulizers away from dust and smoke, both of which can increase a patient's symptoms, are also usually given. Nebulizer masks should never be shared, and should be cleaned after each use to prevent infection.
To clean a nebulizer mask, it must first be rinsed with warm water. After the rinse, excess water should be shaken off before the mask is set aside to air dry. Following an entire day's use, the mask should be washed with warm soapy water. After every third day of use, the mask should be disinfected with a vinegar solution or other disinfectant recommended by the mask's supplier.