Having trouble breathing can not only be a frightening experience, but life-threatening as well. For people who suffer from chronic breathing difficulties, there may be a whole host of medications which need to be dispensed on a regular basis simply to maintain an acceptable level of breathing. Often, even with regular maintenance medications, patients can struggle to breathe. Conditions such as asthma and COPD are among the most common which require medications to be delivered directly into the airway as quickly as possible. Oral medications can help, but they often take as long as an hour to work–when a patient cannot breathe, an hour is simply too long to wait for relief. Rescue inhalers can also be helpful, but they often do not deliver the proper dosage in the right amount of time to assist in opening airways. Hand-held nebulizers are the most effective means at this point to deliver life-saving medications directly into the airways.
What Are Hand-Held Nebulizers?
Hand-held nebulizers are machines which use pressurized air, a mask or mouthpiece, and a metered dose of medication. Medication is placed into the receptacle where it is then delivered through the mouthpiece in the form of a moist, ultra-fine mist where it is able to quickly and effectively reach the airways. While a nebulizer treatment takes longer to deliver the entire amount of medication than a rescue inhaler does, it delivers it in a more effective manner, making them a necessary piece of medical equipment for many people suffering from breathing difficulties.
Who Can Benefit From A Hand-Held Nebulizer?
Young children. A nebulizer is often the most effective means of delivering life-saving medications directly into the lungs. Trying to get a child to properly time breathing in order to take in a puff of medicine from a rescue inhaler can be difficult. In many cases, airway-opening medications will simply land on the back of the tongue instead of being inhaled into the lungs where they are needed most. This absorption through the mouth is only slightly effective, then, in helping to assist in breathing. It does, however, lead to more unwanted side effects (particularly associated with albuterol or other inhaled steroids) such as jitteriness, nausea, and tremors. Utilizing a spacer to inhale medications is helpful with younger children, but it may still be difficult to get them to inhale as deeply and hold the medication in their lungs before exhaling, making a nebulizer a far better option to deliver necessary medications.
Patients with severe asthma. People who suffer from severe asthma may carry a rescue inhaler with them at all times. However, they may find the effects of the rescue inhaler to be short-lasting because it can be difficult to get all of the necessary medication deep into the lungs to help overall lung function. Using a nebulizer, though it takes 15-20 minutes to deliver all of the medications, are far more effective at opening as much of the airways as possible, deep within the bronchii in the lungs. This delivers longer-lasting relief to patients suffering from severe asthma.
Patients who need to take a variety of medications to keep their lungs functioning properly. There are several types of medications which can be delivered via a nebulizer treatment. The medications can be much more effective when delivered in a certain order to help prevent severely compromising lung function. Those with COPD, severe asthma, and severe allergies which threaten the airway can benefit from a hand-held nebulizer to deliver powerful doses of broncho-dilators and corticosteroids. When administered in the proper order via a nebulizer treatment, many patients find they can have a much better quality of life with more relief than simply taking several different types of inhalers as the medications are able to be inhaled more deeply through the nebulizer.
Just like a rescue inhaler, there are correct and incorrect ways to use a hand-held nebulizer. The order in which medications are administered is extremely important. For example, using albuterol prior to a corticosteroid will help further open the airways for the corticosteroid to be delivered to inflamed airways.
How to use a hand-held nebulizer correctly for maximum benefit:
- Place nebulizer machine on a flat surface and make sure all tubing is free of kinks
- Plug the hand-held nebulizer into the outlet, and attach the tubing to the machine
- Add medications to the nebulizer cup, and screw top on securely.
- Attach mouthpiece or mask to the nebulizer cup and place mask over face or wrap lips securely around the mouthpiece.
- Turn the nebulizer on, inhaling deeply and slowly through your mouth to draw as much of the medication into your lungs as possible. The mist should “disappear” with every drawn breath.
- Continue breathing slowly and deeply until all medication in the cup is gone. Tap the sides of the cup to be sure all liquid is gone.
- Turn machine off.
Using a hand-held nebulizer is one of the best methods of delivering critical medications to somebody who has difficulty breathing. Today’s hand-held nebulizer machines are small, lightweight, and highly portable so you can take your machine with you wherever you go.