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Nebulisers

Who can benefit from a nebuliser?

On this page, we explain who can benefit from using a nebuliser as part of their treatment. We also explain what medications can be delivered by nebulisers.

Does my lung condition mean I should be using a nebuliser?

As part of your treatment for your lung condition, you might be offered medications delivered by a nebuliser. This will be specific to your condition. Not all lung conditions require treatment by nebuliser.

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

Bronchiectasis

For people with bronchiectasis, nebulisers can be used to deliver saltwater solution to help manage mucus build up. It works by helping to reduce the thickness of phlegm so it's easier to cough it out. Nebulisers can also be used to deliver antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection. Read more about how bronchiectasis is treated.

Cystic fibrosis

Nebulisers are used to deliver medications to manage the build-up of mucus and other symptoms if you have cystic fibrosis. We have more information on how cystic fibrosis is treated for you to read.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

For people with 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 for a short time if you have a severe flare-up. Your consultant may decide to arrange a nebuliser for you to use at home in some circumstances. Read more about how COPD is treated.

Asthma

If you have asthma, your health care professional is very unlikely to say you need to use a nebuliser at home. The latest research shows using a reliever inhaler with a spacer is easier and just as effective. You can read more about the different treatments for asthma on our sister charity’s website, Asthma UK.

Pulmonary fibrosis

For people with pulmonary fibrosis, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), saltwater solution can be used to help manage mucus build-up. Read more about treatment for pulmonary fibrosis.

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 saltwater solutions) - these loosen mucus in your airways and make it easier to cough up. Not everyone will be able to tolerate saline well, and respiratory teams will test this before prescribing it as a treatment method
  • 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.

For most people, daily inhaled medications can’t all be delivered by nebuliser. For example, some people with COPD will be prescribed an inhaled steroid to use daily. This medication can only be given by inhaler and cannot be used in a nebuliser.

Only use the nebuliser to take the medicine prescribed specifically for you to use in it. Read more about using your nebuliser safely.

Next: Using a nebuliser at home

Download our nebulisers information (PDF, 390KB)

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