A nebulizer is a medical device that is used by patients with wide range of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, chronic cough and more. The main function of a nebulizer is to convert liquid medication into a fine mist and deliver this medication to the appropriate part of the airways to relieve symptoms of respiratory illnesses.
Therefore, selecting the most appropriate device for drug delivery is very important for optimal results. Increase in efficiency of drug delivery means that the medication will act faster and at a lower dosage which will reduce the incidence of side effects.
Types of nebulizer
There is a variety of nebulizers and each type has unique features although they function similarly. Generally, there are three types of electrical nebulizers: the compressor nebulizer, the ultrasonic nebulizer, and the mesh nebulizer.
The type of nebulizer chosen will influence treatment duration, particle size, portability, durability and many other aspects of the therapy. The ultrasonic nebulizers are typically used in clinical settings, compressor and mesh types are typically considered for home use:
Compressor Nebulizers – Compressor nebulizers is powered by a compressed gas that flows at high velocity through the liquid medicine to turn it into aerosol form. These are less expensive and offers a range of particle sizes output. Also known as tabletop nebulizers, they are heavy and are not meant to be carried around. They may be more suitable for those who prefer stationary use. They require an electric outlet for operation and have a tendency to be a little noisy.
Mesh Nebulizers – Mesh nebulizers use electricity or ultrasonic wave and the liquid drug is pushed through a vibrating mesh/membrane through laser drilled holes, producing very fine droplets through the holes. It is considered the fastest working device. It operates on a battery power supply quietly and efficiently. Given its handheld size, it’s ultra-compact and portable compared to compressor nebulizers.
Choosing the Right Nebulizer
Although your health care provider will recommend a suitable nebulizer for your medication administration, you may still have choices when it comes to brand, size, or maximum input of medication. If you’ve decided that using a nebulizer for respiratory treatment is right for you or a loved one then here are some guides in finding a nebulizer that should work for you.
1. Compatibility with the medical condition
The choice of the device should be tailored to your condition. Different diseases require a different intervention. Upper respiratory diseases such as common cold may require larger particle size while lower respiratory diseases as COPD require smaller particle size. For example, compressor nebulizer offers a range of particle size while mesh nebulizer offers consistent particle size.
Meanwhile, the patients suffering from multiple respiratory diseases, a nebulizer that delivers different, adjustable particle sizes will be a convenient solution. Ask your healthcare provider for a suitable nebulizer recommendation that delivers the right particle size for your underlying condition.
2. Age, physical & cognitive ability of patients
Elderly and infants may have special needs.
Cognitive decline in elderly means that more complex manoeuvres with handheld devices will be challenging. Similar situations arise in those with arthritis, failing eyesight, reduced inspiratory flow and complex treatment regimens.
For those with limited abilities to adopt complex inhalation technique, it might be better to choose a simple compressor nebulizer.
Your healthcare providers should be made aware of emerging problems, including dexterity or cognitive decline.
If you're getting one for your child, mesh nebulizers with low noise and gentler mist are usually more suitable. You may look for a versatile model with optional, child-friendly accessories.
Choose a nebulizer that is practical for you as a caregiver. If your child or loved one requires nebulizer therapy, it's also important that other caregivers who might administer treatment understand how to properly use a nebulizer.
3. Efficiency of device
Your healthcare provider will recommend a nebulizer that is most efficient for your use. Know that certain medications work best with specific types of nebulizers, and some medications (such as medications that are more viscous) have limitations for which nebulizers they can be used with.
Also, keep in mind that the therapy is only effective if the device is operated correctly. Make sure your ability to use the nebulizer is assessed by a competent healthcare professional. If you are unable to use the device properly, discuss with your healthcare provider for an alternative.
If your child is using the nebulizer, ensure that your health care provider periodically reviews to ensure the most appropriate aerosol device is being used as your child grows.
It is important to opt for a device that is easy to use according to your lifestyle. If you are constantly on the go, consider purchasing mesh nebulizer and the necessary accessories like power supplies to carry with you. On the other hand, stationary compressor nebulizers may suit as a good aid for usage by children or elderly or if you are more homebound. Some people prefer to purchase both types of nebulizers. If you're unsure of which type to purchase, it might be best to go with mesh nebulizer for greater convenience.
5. Surrounding factor
When and where the aerosol therapy is required can also impact device selection. Therapy that is given routinely, once or twice a day does not need to be as portable as medication administered more frequently or rescue medications that may be required at any time.
In environments where you are in close proximity to other people, you may prefer a device with the least noise and least treatment time. You should also choose devices that limit or filter exhaled aerosol to avoid secondhand exposure to aerosols.
6. Multiple drugs
Many patients are prescribed more than one inhaled drug. To avoid confusion as to how to use each device for each medication, ask your healthcare provider to suggest a nebulizer that suits all of your medication. Using the same device or decreasing the number of different devices will make you adhere more to therapy while minimizing the confusion caused.
Although nebulizers allow multiple separate drugs to be inhaled at the same time, do not combine medication unless they are verified not to negatively interact with each other.
Ensure that the nebulizer you choose is durable and can withstand daily cleaning procedures. Nebulizers last longer when properly cared for which also involves checking the air filter frequently and changing it when necessary.