For ordinary people, a nebulizer is quite an unfamiliar device. However, individuals suffering from respiratory health conditions like asthma may have used a nebulizer machine for medication delivery.
Nebulizers have significantly grown in popularity since the onset of COVID-19. They have been used to manage severe respiratory symptoms in COVID-19 patients. However, their potential to spread COVID-19 infections compromises their safety.
If you are unfamiliar with a nebulizer, have doubts about who, when, and how the device should be used, or want to understand the safety measures when using it, this article is meant for you.
What is a Nebulizer?
A variety of methods are used to deliver medications into the body, including swallowing, injection, inhalation, dissolving in the mouth, and direct absorption through the skin.
A nebulizer is a battery or electric-powered small machine that aids medication delivery to the lungs in the form of fine mist droplets through inhalation. It delivers medicine to the furthest parts of the lungs for a quick therapeutic effect.
Nebulizers are categorized into three types based on how they function to change liquid medicine into light mist particles to be inhaled by patients.
The most common type, the Jet (compressor) nebulizer, uses an air compressor to change liquid medicine into tiny droplets of mist, also known as aerosol.
The Ultrasonic nebulizers use vibrators to generate high-frequency vibrations that turn medicine into aerosol.
In Mesh nebulizers, the medicine is forced through a mesh with microscopic holes generating tiny particles of the drug. Of the three, this type is the most silent, lightweight, and generates the tiniest aerosol.
Who Needs a Nebulizer?
Nebulizers are used as breathing treatment for a range of symptoms that impact the respiratory tract. They provide an ideal treatment option for children and adults with the following respiratory problems:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
Individuals with existing respiratory conditions mentioned above typically experience severe symptoms when COVID-19 infects them and may need nebulizer treatment.
Recently, nebulizers have been used in the treatment of symptoms of COVID-19. Particularly, they help relieve symptoms that occur in the respiratory tract, such as coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, or wheezing.
Nebulizers and Covid-19
COVID-19 is an infectious disease that also happens to affect the respiratory system. Thus, nebulizers have been used to manage its symptoms both at home and in medical centers.
The problem with nebulizers is that they pose a high risk of airborne COVID-19 transmission. The droplet aerosol formed by nebulizers can stay airborne for periods of up to 30 minutes.
This makes them a perfect medium for the transmission of COVID-19, especially in populated settings.
The debate on whether nebulizers should be used with COVID-19 patients remains unresolved. However, the general best practice suggests that nebulizer care should only apply when there is an absolute necessity to manage COVID-19 symptoms.
How to Safely use a Nebulizer
Given that all the medicine for the treatment of COPD and lung diseases can be delivered using nebulizers, your healthcare professional may find it fit to let you use a nebulizer at home if you have COVID-19.
Additionally, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 could develop severe respiratory symptoms that may require nebulizer treatment.
Whichever the case, it is important to learn how to safely use a nebulizer to improve efficiency and avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Follow these basic steps when using a nebulizer at home to treat symptoms of COVID-19:
- Locate an isolated room or outdoor area where airborne aerosol droplets will not spread to other people.
- Wash your hands with clean water and dry them using a clean towel.
- Put the prescribed medication into the medicine cup.
- Attach the mouthpiece and mask to the nebulizer cup.
- Connect the tubing to the air compressor and nebulizer cup.
- Turn on the machine and take deep breaths from the mouthpiece and mask for 10 to 15 minutes to inhale the medicine.
- Clean your nebulizer after use.
There could be slight differences in how nebulizers from different manufacturers work. This guide is not comprehensive for all nebulizers.
You will need to consult the manufacturer’s instructions to get a comprehensive guide to your specific type of nebulizer.
Cleaning and Maintaining the Nebulizer
A nebulizer needs proper cleaning to avoid the potential spread of infections. It becomes even worse for the risk of spreading infections when used by patients with COVID-19.
After every use, thoroughly clean the medicine cup with soapy water and a mild detergent. Rinse with warm water and air-dry it on a clean cloth or paper towel.
Differences Between Nebulizers and Inhalers
Nebulizers and inhalers basically serve the same purpose of delivering medications into the lungs, but they have some differences.
Nebulizers are generally easier to use than inhalers. Once the mask is on, the patient can breathe the medicine into the lungs easily as though they were breathing normally. For this reason, nebulizers are a better option for breathing treatment in small children.
Nebulizers deliver medicine over a more extended period of 10 to 15 minutes. Furthermore, they are bulky and difficult to carry around.
Electricity-powered nebulizers are even bulkier and usually placed on the table when in use. They require an electrical outlet and cannot be used in places where electricity is not served.
Inhalers (both metered-dose inhalers and dry-powder inhalers) require the patient to breathe the medication with a deeper breath in order to inhale it into the lungs.
This nature of medication intake may be a little challenging to achieve for small children or people with respiratory medical conditions.
Additionally, inhalers are palm-sized and can easily be carried in the pocket like a mobile phone. Unlike nebulizers, inhalers do not need a battery or electricity to function.
Need a Nebulizer?
Before acquiring a nebulizer, you should consult your healthcare provider for professional guidance. Luckily, Fort Worth Pharmacy can help you get a nebulizer together with a doctor’s prescription if it is found to be necessary for your condition.