Nebulizer Treatment and Cleaning

A nebulizer changes liquid medicine into fine droplets (in aerosol or mist form) that are inhaled through a mouthpiece or mask. Nebulizers can be used to deliver bronchodilator (airway-opening) medications such as albuterol, Xopenex or Pulmicort (steroid).

A nebulizer may be used instead of a metered dose inhaler (MDI). It is powered by a compressed air machine and plugs into an electrical outlet.

  1. Place the air compressor on a sturdy surface that will support its weight. Plug the cord from the compressor into a properly grounded (three-prong) electrical outlet.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and warm water and dry completely with a clean towel.
  3. Carefully measure medications exactly as you have been instructed.
  4. Remove the top part of the nebulizer cup.
  5. Place your medication in the bottom of the nebulizer cup.
  6. Attach the top portion of the nebulizer cup and connect the mouthpiece or face mask to the cup.
  7. Connect the tubing to both the aerosol compressor and nebulizer cup.
  8. Turn on the compressor with the on / off switch. Once you turn on the compressor, you should see a light mist coming from the back of the tube opposite the mouthpiece.
  9. Sit or hold child up straight.
  10. If you are using a mask, position it comfortably and securely on your child's face.
  11. If you are using a mouthpiece, place it between your child's teeth and seal his or her lips around it.
  12. Ask your child to take slow, deep breaths through the mouth. If possible, tell him or her to hold each breath for 2-3 seconds before breathing out. This allows the medication to settle into the airways.
  13. Continue the treatment until the medication is gone.
  14. If your child becomes dizzy or feels "jittery," stop the treatment and rest for about 5 minutes. Then continue the treatment, but tell your child to try to breathe more slowly. If these symptoms continue with future treatments, inform your healthcare provider.
  15. Turn off the compressor.
  16. Tell your child to take several deep breaths and cough. He or she should continue coughing to try to clear any secretions in the lungs. Have your child cough the secretions into a tissue and dispose of it properly.
  17. Wash your hands with warm water and soap and dry with a clean towel.

Cleaning and disinfecting your equipment is simple, yet very important. Cleaning should be done in a dust- and smoke-free area away from open windows. Here is how to clean your equipment:

  1. After each treatment, rinse the nebulizer cup with warm water, shake off excess water and let it air dry.
  2. At the end of each day, the nebulizer cup, mask or mouthpiece should be washed in warm, soapy water using a mild detergent, rinsed thoroughly and allowed to air dry. The Pari reusable nebulizer is dishwasher safe; run through cycle on top rack only in a small-parts basket.

Note: There is no need to clean the tubing that connects the nebulizer to the air compressor. Do not put these parts in the dishwasher.

  1. Cover the compressor with a clean cloth when not in use. Keep it clean by wiping it with a clean, damp cloth as needed.
  2. Do not put the air compressor on the floor either for treatments or for storage.
  3. Check the air compressor's filter as directed. Replace or clean according to the directions from your equipment supplier.
  4. Always have an extra nebulizer cup and mask or mouthpiece in case you need it.
  5. Medications should be stored in a cool, dry place. Check them often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and replace them with new ones.
  6. All equipment for your nebulizer therapy can be obtained through Cincinnati Children's Hospital Home Medical Equipment.

Important: Unplug the compressor before cleaning it.


Last Updated 08/2012