What is a Nebulizer Treatment?

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A nebulizer treatment, also known as a “breathing treatment” is a medical treatment using liquid medication and turning it into an aerosol so it can be breathed in by a patient.  The most common liquid medications used are in a class called bronchodilators.  

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Bronchodilators are drugs that dilate or “open” the airways to make breathing easier.  They can be ordered to use on a daily basis, prn (as needed) or in case of an emergency. There are many bronchodilators on the market and basically, they all perform in the same way, by causing the smooth muscle that lines the airway to dilate to ease the work of breathing. They are designed to work within minutes. 

Some patients will be ordered to use steroids via the nebulizer. This is quite common, especially for patients who suffer from chronic lung diseases like COPD or asthma.  Aerosolized steroids reduce inflammation. This keeps the airway from being so reactive and minimizing the number of times the patient has a bad breathing event or shortness of breath.  Rarely, a patient will be ordered to use an antibiotic via the nebulizer.

Nebulizer System

A nebulizer setup consists of the following parts (in most cases): 

  • Compressor
  • Nebulizer kit (either disposable or reusable)
  • Connecting tubing and the medication that has been ordered. 

The nebulizer kit usually consists of a medication cup, connecting tubing, mouthpiece or mask

Breathing treatments are ordered for neonates up to the elderly.  The medications used today, have minimal side effects and are tolerated by most.

If you have been ordered to be on nebulizer treatments, follow your doctor’s orders.  Never discontinue, without consulting your physician, even if you are feeling better.  If you have any questions about your prescription, speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.



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