Using a nebuliser

A nebuliser works by turning liquid medicine into a fine mist which you can breathe easily into the lungs, via a mouth piece or mask. A nebuliser can be useful for some people with asthma, however many clinical trials have found spacers (used with a reliever) to be equally as effective.

Spacers are as effective as a nebuliser; they are also faster and easier to use, more portable, cheaper, and not dependent on a power supply.

Only a small number of people need a nebuliser. They are most commonly used if someone finds using a puffer inhaler and a spacer is difficult. A nebuliser should be bought or hired with a medical note from your healthcare practitioner and used strictly under the directions of the healthcare practitioner.

Those who might benefit from a nebuliser include:

  • some older adults with chronic respiratory disease who get better relief of symptoms with a nebuliser;
  • people with disabilities or people who are unable to use hand held inhalers and spacers;
  • people using medication or hypertonic saline that needs to be nebulised e.g. those with cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis; or
  • people who are recommended a nebuliser by their healthcare practitioner.

Note: If a nebuliser is prescribed, patients must not treat acute asthma attacks or flare-ups at home without also seeking medical help.

A nebuliser consists of:

  • an electrical air pump (or compressor) to pump the air at a high pressure;
  • the nebuliser bowl where the medicine is placed;
  • a length of plastic tubing connecting the pump (or compressor) and the nebuliser bowl;
  • a mouthpiece or facemask used to breathe in the medicine.

Note: Oxygen from a cylinder or hospital wall supply can be used instead of a compressor and air.

What medicines can be used in a nebuliser?

  • Preventers.
  • Relievers.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Hypertonic saline.
  • Hypotonic saline.

Other drugs such as:

  • Morphine.
  • Pulmozyme.
  • Lignocaine.

Some of the medicines can be mixed together instead of being given separately. Your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist can tell you about this.

People who are purchasing on their healthcare practitioner’s recommendation need to know:

  • Where replacement tubing, nebuliser bowls, filters, facemasks/mouthpieces can be obtained from.
  • Where and how often the nebuliser should be serviced (a yearly service is recommended).

Useful Resources

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Air Asthma Action Plans Cover Image

AIR Asthma Action Plan

This self-management action plan for adolescents and adults (aged 12 years and over) is to be completed by healthcare practitioners, together with their patients. Available in English, te reo Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Simplified Chinese