A nebulizer uses an internal compressor to convert liquid medication into a mist, allowing a person to completely inhale the medication through a mask or mouthpiece, according to Healthline. The nebulizer typically contains an electric or battery-operated base, which stores the compressor. A tube attaches to the base and the medication container, letting the pressurized air make contact with the medication just before it reaches the mouthpiece.
Nebulizers offer an easier method of inhalation during a serious asthma attack, making them beneficial for adults with severe symptoms or young children who have difficulty using inhalers on their own, Healthline explains. A person doesn't have to take deep breaths to inhale the full dose, so nebulizers put less stress on narrowed airways. Patients may use a short- or long-acting medication with a nebulizer, and some solutions must be mixed manually.
A nebulizer treatment usually lasts about 10 minutes, and patients are able to take slow breaths to draw the medication into the airways, WebMD states. Both tabletop and portable models are available, depending on the person's health needs. A nebulizer's compressor, medication cup and mouthpiece require regular cleaning, and many medications must be stored in safe conditions. As home nebulizers are bulky, noisy and electricity-dependent, they are often considered impractical for everyday use for people who have no trouble using an inhaler, according to Healthline.