Who can benefit from a nebuliser?

As part of your treatment, you might be offered medications delivered by a nebuliser.

They will be specific to your condition. If you live with:

  • Bronchiectasis - Nebulisers can be used to deliver medications to help reduce the thickness of your phlegm so it's easier to cough it out, and to deliver antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection.
  • Cystic fibrosis - Nebulisers are used to deliver medications to control the build-up of mucus and other symptoms if you have cystic fibrosis.
  • COPD - There is no evidence that nebulisers are more effective at delivering drugs than handheld inhalers as part of your usual treatment. But you may use a nebuliser in hospital if you have a severe flare-up. Your consultant may decide to arrange a nebuliser for you to use at home in some circumstances.

Nebulisers can also be used in palliative care and to give drugs to very young children, such as those with viral bronchiolitis.

If you have asthma, your health care professional is unlikely to say you need to use a nebuliser at home. The latest research shows using a spacer reliever inhaler is easier and just as effective.

What medications are delivered by nebulisers?

A number of different medications can be given using a nebuliser, including:

  • bronchodilators - drugs that open up your airways
  • hypertonic saline solutions (medical grade salt water solutions) - that loosen mucus in your airways and make it easier to cough up
  • antibiotics to treat and prevent infections  

If your health care professional prescribes you nebulised antibiotics alongside other nebulised medication, they will give you the specialist equipment you need (such as tubing and filters) and tell you how to use it. Don’t use the same mouthpiece, mask or tubing as for your other medications.

Next: Using a nebuliser at home

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Download our nebulisers PDF (239KB)

Last medically reviewed: August 2018. Due for review: August 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.