An asthma nebulizer, also known as a breathing machine, changes asthma medication from a liquid to a mist, so that it can be more easily inhaled into the lungs. Home nebulizer therapy is particularly effective in delivering asthma medications to infants and small children and to anyone who is unable to use asthma inhalers with spacers.
To obtain an asthma nebulizer, you need a prescription from your physician. Home nebulizers vary in cost (approximately $200-250) and are usually covered under the durable medical equipment portion of health insurance policies. However, most insurance companies will require you to work with a specified durable medical equipment supplier. Check with your insurance company before purchasing or renting to ensure it will be covered. Your health care provider should be able to assist you with these arrangements.
How do I use a home nebulizer?
First, you will need the following supplies:
- Air compressor
- Nebulizer 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 the cord from the compressor into a properly grounded (three-prong) electrical outlet.
- Before asthma treatment, wash your hands with soap and water and dry completely.
- Carefully measure medications exactly as you have been instructed and put them into the nebulizer cup. Most medications today come in premeasured unit dose vials so measuring is not necessary. If you do measure, use a separate, clean measuring device for each medication.
- Assemble the nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece.
- Connect the tubing to both the aerosol compressor and nebulizer 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 2-3 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 nebulizer 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 5 minutes. Continue the treatment, and try to breathe more slowly. If dizziness or jitteriness continues to be a problem with future treatments, inform your doctor.
During the treatment, if the medication sticks to the sides of the nebulizer cup, you may shake the cup to loosen the droplets.
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