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Nebulizer Treatment for Asthma

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/21/2011

Taking a nebulizer treatment for asthma simply means that your child uses a machine to treat her asthma, especially if she is too young to know how to use an inhaler correctly.

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    Overview

    The nebulizer, or breathing machine, is a medical device that delivers liquid asthma medication in a mist formulation to your child’s lungs. Because she wears a face mask or holds a medication tube in her mouth and breathes the mist in, it gets down deeper into her lungs, giving her more benefit.

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    What a Nebulizer Is

    A nebulizer is an at-home treatment consisting of an air compressor, tubing, a medicine cup and a mouthpiece or face mask. You need to place it on a sturdy surface near an electrical outlet so your child can receive a nebulizer treatment for asthma.

    The compressor portion of the nebulizer pushes air into the tubing, converting the liquid medication into a fine mist. Your child sits down quietly for a short period of time so she can receive a breathing treatment to treat her asthma symptoms.

    The nebulizer is considered to be medical equipment, meaning your health insurance company pays for it from the durable medical equipment (DME) portion of your health insurance plan. These machines range in price from $200 up to $250 –– getting help from the insurance company to pay for this machine relieves you of the full cost, but you need to buy the machine from a specific medical equipment company, according to MedicineNet. [2]

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    What a Nebulizer Does

    Your nebulizer converts medication from a liquid to a mist, enabling your child to inhale the medication more deeply into her lungs. These machines are effective for use with small children, infants and elderly persons who are not able to use an inhaler with a spacer, states WebMD. The nebulizer also delivers a larger dose of medication than the inhaler does. When your child’s asthma is particularly active, this allows her to get the maximum level of medication without overusing her inhaler.

    Different medications can be used in the nebulizer. These medications both treat and maintain asthma symptoms. [1]

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    How to Use a Nebulizer

    To give a nebulizer treatment for asthma to your child, gather the supplies. These include the compressor machine, face mask or mouthpiece, compressor tubing, medication (either in the bottle with a measuring device or in unit dosing vials) and the medicine cup.

    Set the compressor on a sturdy table and plug it into an electrical source. The plug is usually a three-prong, grounded plug. Wash your hands with soap and warm water, then dry them completely. Measure the medication(s) into the medicine cup and assemble the cup with the face mask or mouthpiece. Connect the tubing to the compressor and medicine cup.

    Give your child a book or quiet toy so she can stay occupied during her treatment and turn the compressor on. Look for a fine mist to come from the back of the tube (opposite from the mouthpiece). Have your child sit straight up in a chair. Place the mouthpiece in your child’s mouth or the face mask over her mouth, chin and nose. If she uses the mouthpiece, instruct her to grip it with her front teeth.

    Remind her to take deep, slow breaths, holding each breath for two to three seconds before exhaling. Administer the full treatment until all the medication in the cup is gone –– usually about 10 minutes. You will notice that the nebulizer begins to sputter when the medication is nearly gone. If the medication sticks to the sides of the cup, shake it gently to loosen the droplets so your child gets a full treatment.

    If your child becomes dizzy or jittery, stop the treatment and allow her to rest for 5 minutes. Start the treatment again and remind her to breathe a little more slowly. [1]

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    Concluding Notes

    Rinse the nebulizer cup after each treatment with warm water, then shake the excess off and allow it to air dry. Disinfect the medicine cup in a water and vinegar solution every three days. Use 1/2 cup of vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of water and soak the equipment for 20 minutes, then rinse completely under a warm, steady stream of water. Allow it to air dry on a clean towel, then store it in a plastic zipper bag.

    Store medications in a cool, dry and dark area. They are no good if they have darkened or formed crystals. [2]

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    References

    [1] Nebulizers: Home and Portable. WebMD, retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/home-nebulizer-therapy

    [2] Asthma Nebulizers (Breathing Machine) MedicineNet. retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/nebulizer_for_asthma/article.htm