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Nebulizer or Inhaler: Choose What’s Right for You

Nebulizer or Inhaler: Choose What’s Right for You
Kevin Cleary

Reviewed by Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist on April 4, 2022

Many respiratory infections or ailments require medication to help expedite relief. Once your doctor makes the decision as to which medication is right for you, the next question is what is the proper delivery method for that medicine? The two most common delivery methods are nebulizers and metered dose inhalers (also known as inhalers). Which one is the best method of delivery can be dependent upon who is using it and their level of coordination.

Nebulizer vs. Inhaler

The need to deliver medication directly to our lungs is not reserved for the elderly or for young children alone. People of all ages can be affected by respiratory ailments. Whether it’s a young child with bronchitis or the croup, a teenager with asthma, or an adult suffering from emphysema the need to rapidly administer medicine cannot be understated. While both nebulizers and inhalers deliver this medication directly to the lungs, there are pros and cons of each so understanding how they affect the user is quite important. An article for points out that a common misconception is that a nebulizer therapy is stronger than that of a metered dose inhaler (MDI). Albuterol is probably the most common medication used for respiratory ailments and there have been numerous studies to show that patients receiving treatment with an MDI do just as well as those with nebulizers. So if both methods are effective, how do we determine which is right for our specific case? In order to answer this question, it’s a matter of matching the user with the benefits of each delivery method.

Is an Inhaler Right for Me?

We have all probably seen somebody using an inhaler, whether on TV or in person. In order to use this device properly the user must press the device to dispense the medication and inhale at the same time. This does require a small, but important, amount of coordination. Any error in timing can lead to improper dosing due to medicine not being inhaled into the lungs. One way to minimize this is through the use of a spacer or aerochamber  The spacer holds your medication so you don’t need to coordinate inhaling with discharging your medication. You can just inhale whenever you are ready, therefore maximizing the amount of medication that gets directly into your lungs. The RDS Microspacer Aerosol Spacer Device reduces throat deposition by 70% and weighs less than 1 ounce. Patients of all ages will benefit from the Vortex Non-Electrostatic Holding Chamber. Its one way duckbill valve opens with minimal effort when inhaling and delivers 56% more respirable particles compared to other holding chambers/spacers. Since reducing the amount of drug deposition into the mouth is important, the Monaghan AeroChamber Plus Z STAT Antistatic Valved Holding Chamber with Flowsignal Whistle is designed to reduce the coordination needed between canister activation and inhalation. It’s also available with an option for a mask. For pediatric patients, the Respironics OptiChamber Diamond Antistatic Valved Holding Chamber offers low resistance inspiratory and respiratory valves that open freely. One benefit that MDIs have over a nebulizer is the fact that they are much faster to use. If done correctly, one dosage from an MDI with a spacer can take 30 seconds or less compared to a nebulizer that can take up to 10 minutes. Another benefit is that MDIs have fewer side effects. For instance, albuterol from an MDI increases the heart rate less than that of a nebulizer. Another upside of the MDI is cost. The cost of nebulizers and related supplies aside, the cost of a dose of nebulized albuterol can be 4-5 times the cost of albuterol delivered by an MDI. One of the greatest benefits of an MDI is the fact that they are so convenient and portable. They can be carried in your pocket or your purse, whereas a nebulizer is significantly more bulky and many require an AC cord and plug.


Benefits of a Nebulizer

While an MDI may be a great choice for those that can coordinate inhaling and dispensing their medication, the simplicity of a nebulizer is one way to overcome this shortcoming. As states (correctly, may I add) children don’t have to actively do anything to properly receive their medication other than regular breathing. All they need to do is stay in one place, put the mouthpiece or facemask on, and just breathe!! Easy peasy!! One simple-to-use option is the Omron Compare Elite Compact Compressor Nebulizer System. It comes with all you need for your respiratory therapy needs. Since we humans like to travel, a portable nebulizer system can be extremely convenient. The Salter Aire Plus Portable Compressor with Disposable Nebulizer minimizes medication waste and increases patient compliance. For home use, the Drive Pacifica Elite Compressor Nebulizer converts medication to a fine mist to penetrate deep into the lungs.  Any improper use will result in less medication getting directly into the lungs and therefore increasing recovery time. Many nebulizers do need to be plugged into a wall outlet in order to operate, but there are some that use batteries and are therefore completely portable. This allows you to take your therapy with you wherever you may go.

Additional Help

Just like we strengthen our muscles in the gym, our respiratory muscles can be strengthened also. The Respironics Threshold IMT Inspiratory Muscle Trainer is designed to strengthen respiratory muscles and improve breathing. In order to improve muscles used during exhalation, the Respironics Threshold Positive Expiratory Pressure Device features easy to set, adjustable pressure, and helps patients breathe more freely. It is recommended that nebulizer users consult their doctor or nurse so as to make wiser decisions.


Read More on Nebulizers and Inhalers

Where to buy Inhalers and Nebulizers online?

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Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. It is recommended to consult your physician or health care provider to see if this device is appropriate for you.


HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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