Using a nebuliser at home
On this page we explain everything you need to know about using your nebuliser at home. It includes information on using your nebuliser safely, cleaning your nebuliser and travelling with a nebuliser.
You should only use a nebuliser at home if all of the following apply:
- your health care professional has recommended one for you
- your health care professional prescribes medications to use with it
- you (and your carer, if you have one) are trained to use it
- you (and your carer, if you have one) understand the risk of infection and know how to clean and dry the nebuliser parts thoroughly to avoid infection.
On this page:
- Can I get a nebuliser from the NHS to use at home?
- Using your nebuliser safely
- Cleaning your nebuliser
- Travelling with a nebuliser
Medications used with a nebuliser is provided on prescription, but the nebuliser machine itself isn't always available on the NHS.
In some areas, if your consultant or specialist respiratory clinic decides you would benefit from using a nebuliser at home, they may arrange this for you. In this case, you may be loaned a nebuliser by the hospital or a community respiratory service. They will usually be responsible for its service and maintenance, but you should check this.
If your health care professional arranges a nebuliser for you, it is important they arrange for you and your carer to be trained to use it. You should also be shown how to look after it and how to make sure it is working properly.
Sometimes a local respiratory service may provide the device without charge, but if this isn't an option, you may have to pay for a device. If you have to buy it yourself, ask your local pharmacist or health care professional for advice on which one to buy.
You should have a plan agreed with your health care professional about when to use your nebuliser. You should also discuss possible side effects. Your plan should also cover what to do in an emergency, if the nebuliser breaks down, or is very slow.
Always use your nebuliser exactly how your health care professional has shown you and only use the medication that has been prescribed for it.
If you’re using a facemask to breathe in the mist, make sure the mask fits your properly. This will avoid the medication inadvertently leaving the mask and irritating your eyes. If you use a mouthpiece, seal your lips tightly around it and breathe through your mouth, not your nose.
Even when using a nebuliser correctly, it’s possible for small amounts of medication to be released in the air around you. To avoid people around you accidentally breathing in the medication, make sure your face mask is sealed tightly and you use your mouthpiece correctly. Try to keep the room you use your nebuliser in well-ventilated, by opening windows and doors.
Sit up as straight as you can and breathe in a normal, relaxed way. Using a nebuliser normally takes between 10 and 15 minutes.
Top tips for using your nebuliser safely
- As with all electrical equipment, your nebuliser machine must not come in contact with water or other liquid while connected to the mains electricity.
- Don’t use or store your nebuliser in a room that’s very dusty or very smoky.
- When using the nebuliser, place it on a clean, flat table surface – don’t use it on a carpet or rug, as fibres could be drawn into the nebuliser while you’re using it.
- Keep all parts of your nebuliser (including the tubing) away from children and pets.
- Don’t try and modify your nebuliser and don’t cover the air intake grills on the nebuliser machine.
- If your machine has a filter in it, make sure you know how to change it and how frequently it should be changed. Ask your health care professional for more information or if you’re not sure.
All nebulisers need to be maintained and cleaned. If your health care professional arranges one for you, make sure they give you information about this. If you buy your own nebuliser, get advice from your hospital or the manufacturer about maintenance and cleaning before you buy it.
It can be time-consuming to clean and maintain your machine, so you’ll need to build this into your routine. It’s important to clean and dry your nebuliser thoroughly every day if you use one regularly. You should not wash the tubing that connects the nebuliser to the chamber – only the mask and chamber need washing.
Wash your nebuliser after each use by:
- washing your hands
- disconnecting the mask, mouthpiece and chamber
- washing the individual parts in warm soapy water and rinsing with clean water
- shaking off excess water and leaving the parts to air dry on a clean tissue or kitchen paper towel – don’t be tempted to manually dry the inside of the parts, especially the chamber, as this can create static charge causing the medication to stick inside and not be delivered correctly.
Make sure you know how to correctly put the pieces back together. You may also be advised to disinfect the nebuliser regularly.
Parts such as mouthpieces, masks, tubing, filters and the nebuliser’s chamber need to be changed regularly, at least every three to four months.
To avoid cross infection, you should never use other people’s mouthpieces, masks or tubing.
Risk of infection from nebulisers
Hospitals assess the risk of infections caused by using nebulisers and have clear procedures to avoid spreading infections. These may include using nebulisers or their parts only once, and processes to clean and decontaminate them. At home, you should also be aware of the risk of infection. Nebulisers can be contaminated by infections in your airways and bacteria in the environment. Any fluid left in a nebuliser can easily grow bacteria.
So, it is very important you know how to clean and dry your nebuliser after every use.
If you need a nebuliser when you are away from home, tell your health care professional you plan to travel. Ask about getting a travel nebuliser and about a prescription for the medication you will need.
It's very important to continue to use your nebuliser safely when you’re away from home. Make sure you bring with you everything you need to clean the device and service it correctly. If you’re travelling outside of the UK, don’t forget your travel adaptor!
Have a look at our information about going on holiday with a lung condition for more tips.
What is a nebuliser?
A nebuliser is a machine that helps you to breathe in medicine as a fine mist through a mask or a mouthpiece. We explain what a nebuliser is used for and the different types of nebuliser available. We also explain the difference between nebulisers, inhalers and spacers.