Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Home Nebulizer Treatments
Many medications are most effective when inhaled directly
into the lungs. To be inhaled into the airways of the
lungs, medication must be changed from a liquid to a fine
mist. To create this fine mist at home, you need a
nebulizer and an air compressor. A nebulizer is a plastic
container that breaks liquids into a fine mist using a jet
of air. The compressor, run by electricity or battery,
provides the jet of air to the nebulizer.
How is the home nebulizer used?
- Place the compressor on a hard surface. Make sure the
filter is free of dust and dirt. If it is dirty, rinse
it with water and then dry it. Plug in the compressor.
- Place the prescribed amount of medication(s) into the
nebulizer with a dropper or syringe. Most medications
can be mixed together, but if you have a question don't
hesitate to ask.
- If prescribed, add salt water (normal saline). If you
should run out of normal saline, 1/2 teaspoon of water
may be substituted.
- Attach the nebulizer to the compressor tubing. Turn the
power on. (The medication will immediately begin to be
nebulized.) Place the mouthpiece in the mouth and
breathe in and out through the mouth until all the
medication is gone. If the child is able, tell the
child to take an extra deep breath every 10 breaths or
so, hold that breath for 10 seconds, and then breathe
out slowly. This technique permits the medication to
stay in the lungs longer for better effect. With
smaller children, it may help to hold their nose closed
to get more medication into their lungs.
If a child is too small to use a mouthpiece, hold the
nebulizer 2 to 4 inches in front of the child's mouth. Or
you may use a mask, which can be secured loosely over the
nose and mouth so the child does not become frightened. If
a "T-piece" is used on the top of the nebulizer, block one
end with tape or with your thumb so that more mist will be
directed at the child.
Most nebulizers work best in an upright position. If the
mixture has coated the sides and isn't being nebulized,
gently shake the nebulizer occasionally during the
treatment. An average treatment takes 10 to 15 minutes.
The treatment is over when all the medication is gone and
the nebulizer makes a constant sputtering noise.
Some children cough up mucus after breathing treatments.
Observe the mucus color and thickness. Normal secretions
are usually thin and white or clear. Thick and sticky mucus
that is yellow or green may indicate infection. Call your
doctor to report a change.
If your child needs more treatments than prescribed by your
doctor, or if the treatments do not improve the symptoms,
call your doctor.
How and when should the nebulizer be cleaned?
After each treatment, rinse the nebulizer, mouthpiece or
mask, and T-piece under hot running water. Shake off excess
water, place the pieces face down, and let them air dry.
Store the pieces in a clean bag. It is not necessary to
clean the compressor tubing.
A more thorough cleaning is necessary if more than three to
four treatments with the nebulizer are given each day. Use
a safety pin to clean out the tiny hole of the tower of the
medicine cup on the nebulizer to prevent clogging of the
nebulizer jet. Prepare a solution of one part white vinegar
and two parts water. Once a week soak the nebulizer in the
mixture for 30 minutes, rinse each piece thoroughly under
hot running water, place the pieces face down, and let them
air dry. Store the pieces in a clean bag.
What special instructions should be followed?
Your doctor has prescribed nebulizer treatments to be given
______ times a day. The medication(s) to be used is(are)
_______________________________ (the amount is ___________),
and is mixed in _____ ml of normal saline