How nebulisers work...

What is a nebuliser?

A nebuliser is actually the small plastic container that is filled with a medicine solution. An electric compressor is used to blow air (or oxygen) through this solution to make a fine mist of medicine. This mist is breathed into the lungs through a mouthpiece or mask. In common parlance, 'nebuliser' is the term given to the complete unit (container, compressor, tubing & mouthpiece).

A selection of nebulisers available to buy online from this website

Who needs to use a nebuliser?

Nebulisers are most commonly used to treat severe attacks of asthma at a doctor's surgery or in an accident and emergency department. In fact, research has shown that in most cases, multiple doses of reliever medicine through a spacer are just as effective in severe attacks of asthma, but nebulisers are used in accident and emergency departments to save staff time.

Sometimes people who have severe asthma symptoms or other lung diseases find that normal reliever inhalers do not work for them. To help to open up the airways or deal with an attack that comes on very quickly, a doctor may prescribe nebulised reliever medicine to use at home. A very small number of people with asthma also need to use a nebuliser to take their regular preventer-type medicine.

What types of nebuliser are available?

There are a number of different types of electric nebulisers available:

Mains 240V only – these plug into a UK mains socket.

Car battery – these can be plugged into the car cigarette lighter for use when travelling.

Any mains voltage, or mains 110/220V – other countries may have a different mains voltage to the UK so these can be helpful if you travel. Check with your travel agent about voltage in different countries.

Rechargeable battery – these contain a power supply of their own and so can be used anywhere. They need to be recharged from the mains regularly.

Content modified from the "Buying a nebuliser" factsheet from the Asthma UK charity website.

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