Who can benefit from a nebuliser?

As part of your treatment, you might be offered drugs delivered by a nebuliser if you have:

  • COPD - There is no evidence that nebulisers are more effective at delivering drugs than hand-held inhalers as part of your usual treatment.  But you may use a nebuliser in hospital if you have a severe flare-up. 
  • 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.

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, you are unlikely to be offered a nebuliser for routine use. Most people with asthma don’t need to use a nebuliser routinely. The latest research shows that using a reliever inhaler with a spacer is easier and just as effective for treating mild to moderate asthma. 

Spacers make it easier to get the right amount of medicine from your inhaler

Spacers are large, empty containers that are usually made of plastic. You fix your inhaler on one end and use the mouthpiece at the other end. When you press on your inhaler to release your medicine, the medicine collects in the chamber of the spacer, so you can breathe in the medicine without needing to get the timing and speed exactly right.

In an emergency, you should go straight to hospital.

Next: Can I get a nebuliser to use at home?

Last medically reviewed: August 2015. Due for review: August 2018

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.