What is a Nebulizer Machine & What Does It Do?

What Is a Nebulizer Machine?

Nebulizers are often prescribed by doctors to treat chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). There are primarily two types of nebulizers: home machines and portable nebulizers. Both work in similar ways and require proper maintenance. Consult your physician if you feel that you require a nebulizer and continue reading to learn a bit more about them.

What Does It Do?

The purpose of a nebulizer machine is to send liquid medication to a patient’s lungs by converting it into a fine mist that the user inhales. This is either done via an air compressor or a vibrating mesh disc, depending on the type of nebulizer being used.

When Do You Need a Nebulizer?

As mentioned, nebulizer machines are prescribed by doctors to treat symptoms of chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COPD. Other conditions may require the use of a nebulizer for treatment. Consult your physician before purchasing a nebulizer machine for your respiratory needs.

How Do You Set Up & Use a Nebulizer?

There are two types of nebulizer systems: a home nebulizer and a portable nebulizer. Both are similar in function, but may require different set-up.

Home Nebulizer System

Philips Respironics Innospire Essense Nebulizer

Home nebulizer systems are composed of several pieces: a compressor, tubing, medicine cup, and mouthpiece/mask. Connect the tubing to the compressor outlet port on one end and the medicine cup on the other. Fill the medicine cup with the prescribed medicine and twist the cap into place. Attach the mouthpiece or mask to the other end of the medicine cup. Once medicine is in place, do not turn the cup on its side.

Turn the device on and place the mouthpiece firmly between your teeth. Breathe slowly, allowing the medicine to move into the lungs. Depending on your prescription and your nebulizer system, treatment may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. When treatment is over, turn the unit off.

Portable Nebulizer System

Innospire Go Portable Mesh Nebulizer

Most portable nebulizers are handheld units, powered by a rechargeable battery. These batteries, when powered on, cause a mesh disc to being vibrating inside of the unit’s mouthpiece. To begin treatment, ensure the device is turned off, open the medicine cup and fill with the prescribed amount of medication. Close the cup, press the power button and press the device firmly between your teeth.

Breathe slowly during treatment. Portable nebulizers have faster treatment times and will finish in 5 to 7 minutes. Once treatment is complete, turn the device off.

What Type of Medicine Can I Use With My Nebulizer?

Nebulizers are most often used with bronchodilators. These are medications that help to open the airway and improve breathing. Confirm with your doctor if your medication can be used with a nebulizer machine.

What is the Difference Between a Nebulizer & Inhaler?

While both devices treat respiratory conditions, nebulizers allow more medicine to reach the lungs. Inhalers (also known as metered-dose inhalers, or MDIs) are often not used correctly, causing many patients to waste medication.

How Do You Clean a Nebulizer Machine?

Cleaning your nebulizer is an important part of respiratory therapy. Never submerge compressors, batteries, or tubing in water. Actively hand wash medicine cups and mouthpieces after every use and disinfect on a weekly basis. If your device uses filters, inspect them regularly and replace them if they become wet, dirty, or damaged.

As these are general rules, refer to your specific unit’s user manual for the most effective cleaning method.

Do You Need a Prescription for a Nebulizer?

A prescription is required for the medication necessary for your respiratory condition. To determine if a nebulizer is the most effective method of taking that medicine, consult with your doctor.

How Much Does a Nebulizer Cost?

Home nebulizers, such as the Philips Respironics InnoSpire Essence, start as low as $29. Portable nebulizers are more expensive, due to the lithium ion battery included. Units such as the Flyp Portable Mesh Nebulizer start around $190.

FLYP Nebulizer

• Designed to treat respiratory problems while being whisper-quiet, and able to fit in your pocket

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If you have any additional questions about nebulizers, how they work, or replacement parts, contact our knowledgeable customer care team. Give us a call at 866-414-9700 or send us an email at questions@thecpapshop.com.

This post was updated on March 2, 2021.

Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

48 Comments Leave new

  • Damari Jordan-Onchiri

    How often should I replace my machine?

    • Chris Vasta

      Hello Damari. Hello Damari. The life expectancy of most cpap machines is about three to five years, according to Resmed. If maintenance is kept up with some machines have been know to last longer.

  • Jim Peters

    on your site it says nebulizers require an RX? How come I can buy all over the internet without one? and at Amazon? it is not required.

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Jim, you may be looking at a different website. We do not require an RX for nebulizer purchases.

      • Tia

        When do you need a nebulizer? Do you need a prescription?
        Nebulizers are prescribed by a doctor to anyone who needs to inhale medication usually to treat asthma. The medication can be used for an immediate need or preventative maintenance. A prescription by a licensed doctor is required.

        That is literally what is says above..

        • Chris Vasta

          Correct, nebulizers are used to dispense medication for asthma and other respiratory conditions. The medication for a nebulizer can only be prescribed by a licensed doctor. We can allow the purchase of a nebulizer without a prescription, but we do not provide any medications for the use of that device.

  • Rose Brown

    Nebulizer machine please Rosa Brown from Dallas Texas Rose Brown from Dallas Texas need help with a nebulizer machine breathing machine I can’t believe I’m coughing too much I’m coughing can’t stop coughing thank you have a blessed day

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Rose, coughing is normal when using a nebulizer. This means it is working to break up the material in your chest to help clear it. However if you are in severe pain, please seek medical assistance immediately.

  • Konica

    Can i buy the Medic Nebuliser on my medical aid?

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Konica! We do accept FSA and HSA health cards for purchases. We do not work with insurance, however, we do provie you with a hard copy of the invoice that you may submit to your provider for possible reimbursement.

  • shanna

    I just got one. CVS doesn’t carry them. Walgreens needs a prescription! Why! OH!

    • Timothy Greathouse

      You can get one at Wish.com I bought the same one used in hospitals

    • Vicki

      If they require a prescription why can you order them online at Amazon? Does that require a prescription?

      • Chris Vasta

        HI Vicki,
        Amazon should not be selling the nebulizer machine without asking for a prescription. Additionally Amazon is not an authorized dealer.
        A nebulizer machine is considered a durable medical device and thus is “RX only” in this case. We don’t know why that is the case, but it is.

        • Austin H

          So which is it? right above this comment you said “you do not need a prescription for the machine” then in this comment you say you do need a prescription for just the machine. There cannot be 2 different answers to this question.

  • Michael Smith

    My pharmacy won’t sell me the disposable nebulizer without a prescription……6 wks ago they did? But this pharmacist won’t where the other did. I have found some will and some won’t. It sucks for me with emphysema, i can’t breath, and they think it’s a freaking game. It’s a darn plastic cup for crying out loud. Not an opioid, not a needle, not any way to get high with it…..our RX system sucks. As long we keep getting sick and dying, the pharmaceutical companys are getting rich on plastic cups and rubber hoses. Shame on them….

  • Marcia

    I don’t know if Chris Vasta is still employed by you, if so please have him/her update information on the nebulizer. They DO NOT require a prescription from a doctor…..only the medication does.

  • Bette Mathias

    Presently have table top drive power nebulizer. Need 12volt for car. What do you recommend?


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