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COPD - how to use a nebulizer

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - nebulizer

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Description

A nebulizer turns your COPD medicine into a mist. It is easier to breathe the medicine into your lungs this way. If you use a nebulizer, your COPD medicines will come in liquid form.

Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) do not need to use a nebulizer. Another way to get your medicine is with an inhaler, which is usually just as effective.

How to use a Nebulizer

With a nebulizer, you will sit with your machine and use a mouthpiece. Medicine goes into your lungs as you take slow, deep breaths for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nebulizers can deliver medicine with less effort than inhalers. You and your doctor can decide if a nebulizer is the best way to get the medicine you need. The choice of device may be based on whether you find a nebulizer easier to use and what type of medicine you take.

Most nebulizers use air compressors. Some use sound vibrations. These are called "ultrasonic nebulizers." They are quieter, but they cost more.

Follow these steps to set up and use your nebulizer:

Taking Care of Your Nebulizer

You will need to clean your nebulizer to prevent bacteria from growing in it, since bacteria can cause a lung infection. It takes some time to clean your nebulizer and keep it working properly. Be sure to unplug the machine before cleaning it.

After each use:

Once per day, you may add a mild dish soap to the cleaning routine above.

Once or twice each week:

You may clean the outside of your machine with a warm, damp cloth as necessary. Never wash the hose or tubing.

You will also need to change the filter. The instructions that come with your nebulizer will tell you when you should change the filter.

Traveling With Your Nebulizer

Most nebulizers are small, so they are easy to transport. You may carry your nebulizer in your carry-on luggage when traveling by plane.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you are having trouble using your nebulizer. You should also call if you have any of these problems while using your nebulizer:

These may be signs that you are getting too much medicine.

References

Celli BR, Zuwallack RL. Pulmonary rehabilitation. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 105.

Criner GJ, Bourbeau J, Diekemper RL, et al. Prevention of acute exacerbations of COPD: American College of Chest Physicians and Canadian Thoracic Society guideline. Chest. 2015;147(4):894-942. PMID: 25321320 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25321320.

Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) website. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: 2019 report. goldcopd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GOLD-2019-v1.7-FINAL-14Nov2018-WMS.pdf. Accessed October 22, 2019.

Han MK, Lazarus SC. COPD: clinical diagnosis and management. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 44.

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Review Date: 10/1/2019  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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