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

  • elle

    Can I set up my grandmother’s nebulizer tonight for her to use while I am at work tomorrow?

  • Tania

    Hello my name is Tania Daniels i have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and have trouble breathing and am very chesty i was wondering if you no of anybody in New Zealand who i can get help with a nebulizer machine please

  • yvonne l buckley

    why at times is foam formed in the nebulizer cup? And it takes too long for the liquid to mistify.

    • Chris Vasta

      If the nebulizer cup is not rinsed out after each use, the crystals from the saline solution can cause the cup to become clogged. This may be why the medication is taking longer to dispense. I would also recommend using a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts distilled water disinfect to some degree. The manufacturer recommends sanitizing after every other usage. They suggest soaking nebulizer parts (except the tubing and mask) for 60 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Alternatively, mix a solution using Control III® Nebulizer Disinfectant and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, then rinse thoroughly. Or if you wanted to you would be able to boil they items excluding the mask and tubing for 5 minutes to disinfect.

  • Teryn

    Are all nebulizers the same? Putting out the same amount of air? I have a respironics, I’m on my 2nd. I’ve never been impressed. Isn’t there something that works better? I have asthma, am on 3 inhalers, plus my nebulizer. All I want is a deep breath and to not wheeze.

  • Kathleen Brown

    What happens (where can you take it) to get it fixed?

    • Chris Vasta

      If your nebulizer is still within warranty you would want to reach out to the distributor you received the machine from. If that dose not apply you can try reaching out to The Repair Authority 1440-286-9810. Here is the link for that company: https://repairauthority.com/

  • Michelle

    How do u clean the system so more air comes out of it. Because I’m not getting hardly any air and insurance says to early for a new one

    • Chris Vasta

      Hello, Michelle. I am afraid there is no way to clean the machine so more air is delivered. The machine would have been set according to the sleep study. Perhaps bring it into the company where it was purchased from and ask them to test the machine. If your sleep apnea has gotten worse you may need a new sleep study.

  • Leanna base

    Why does the mist come out of the hole on the mouthpiece?

    • Chris Vasta

      Hello, Leanna. As the medication gets converted into mist, it comes out from the mouthpiece from which you inhale the medication. The body can absorb the medication better when it is in this form.

  • Lonnie Futrel

    Will my .Medicare cover a nebulizer machine

    • Chris Vasta

      Hello, Lonnie. We are not in-network with any insurance companies, so any purchase from us will be out-of-pocket. We do email you an itemized invoice you can use to submit for a reimbursement. We also accept HSA and FSA cards for any transaction; and we have a payment plan option available through Affirm. If you are interested in using your insurance you will have to reach out to your insurance company and they can put you in touch with a provider.

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