Diseases and Symptoms that Require Using A Nebulizer

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Nebulizers are a scripted item. They are not prescribed if they are not needed. Some prescriptions will be for the nebulizer to be used three or four times per day, some will be required to use a nebulizer prn (or as needed) and some will use it for emergency breathing events.

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What conditions require nebulizer treatments?

Normally, if a nebulizer is ordered it is because the patient is:

  • having a difficult time breathing
  • has a lot of secretions that they are having trouble mobilizing
  • is wheezing
  • has continued coughing
  • is short of breath.

What diseases are Nebulizers used for?

The diseases associated with most nebulizer prescriptions are:

  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis, or upper respiratory infections. 

The purpose of the treatment is to open up the airways and to mobilize secretions out of the lungs.

Can a Nebulizer Remove mucus?

Most patients are ordered to use a bronchodilator that will enlarge the caliber of the airway and make it easier to breathe and easier to cough out mucus. Some patients, in addition to a bronchodilator, may need an inhaled steroid. The steroid is designed to keep the airway from having continued breathing events that require more and more nebulizer treatments. Steroids are a prophylactic treatment, in that their purpose is to reduce the inflammation in the airway. It is important that if you are ordered a steroid, that you rinse your mouth and brush your teeth after using it. Steroids, if not rinsed from the oral cavity, can cause oral thrush which is a yeast/fungal infection of the mouth. It is quite uncomfortable as the mouth can be riddled with sores and itchy white patches which can prevent a patient from being able to eat properly. There is also a class of drugs called mucolytics which help to thin out the mucus in the lungs and airways allowing the secretions to be coughed up and out more easily.

The diseases described above all cause narrowing of the airway and copious amounts of secretions. A healthcare professional may order just a bronchodilator or a combination of drugs, or any of the newer classes of drugs that may combine what they do.

Things to remember during Nebulizer Treatment

It is important to remember that not everyone with the above disease states is ordered on nebulizer treatments. It is up to the doctor or healthcare provider to decide when and what drugs will be implemented. It is usually dependent on signs and symptoms that have been reported, or pulmonary testing that has been done.

It is important to follow the prescription that your doctor has written. Even if you are feeling better, do not stop treatments without consulting with your physician or healthcare provider.

Commonly Used Abbreviations for Nebulizer Treatments

  • q.d.: once per day
  • q.h.s: every night
  • b.i.d.: twice per day
  • t.i.d.: three times per day
  • q.i.d.: four times per day
  • q.h.: every hour
  • PRN: as needed
  • ATC: around the clock
  • ALB: Albuterol
  • BUD: Budesonide
  • GTTS: drops



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