Inhalers and nebulizers are two different devices used to deliver quick-relief medicines (also called rescue or fast-acting medicines) or long-term control medicines (also called controller or maintenance medicines) directly into the lungs.
Inhalers are portable, handheld devices that are available in two types:
Metered dose inhalers (MDI) are the most commonly prescribed. Like mini-aerosol cans, these devices push out a pre-measured spray of medicine. When the person squeezes the inhaler, a measured "puff" of medicine is released. Some MDIs have counters that indicate how many doses remain. If there's no counter, the number of doses already used should be tracked, so that the inhaler can be replaced on time.
Kids who use a metered dose inhaler also might use a spacer, which attaches to the inhaler and makes it easier to use. A spacer is a kind of holding chamber for the medicine, which eliminates the need to closely coordinate squeezing the inhaler and inhaling the medicine. With an inhaler and spacer, the medicine can be inhaled slowly when the user is ready. So, it's possible for very young kids and even babies to receive their medications using a metered dose inhaler with a spacer.
Spacers also make inhalers more effective. Sometimes with an MDI, the medicine will reach the back of the throat but not get down into the lower airways. A spacer helps to deliver the medicine into the lower airways, which is where it needs to go to work properly.
Babies and younger kids use a facemask (a plastic cup that covers the mouth and nose) to inhale the medication held in the spacer, whereas older kids can use a mouthpiece. It usually only takes a couple of minutes or less to give medication by metered dose inhaler with a spacer.
Dry powder inhalers deliver medicine in powder form, but they don't spray out. The user must do more of the work, inhaling the powdered medicine quickly and quite forcefully. At around 5 or 6 years of age, most kids are able to do this.
During an office visit, the doctor may ask your child to demonstrate using the inhaler and offer advice, if needed.
Nebulizers are electric- or battery-powered machines that turn liquid asthma medicine into a fine mist that's inhaled into the lungs. The user breathes in the mist through a mouthpiece or facemask. Nebulizers vary in size and shape, but can be a bit bulky and noisy and may need to be plugged in.
A child doesn't have to "do" anything to receive the medicine except stay in one place and accept the mouthpiece or facemask. It usually takes about 5 or 10 minutes to give medication by nebulizer, and sometimes longer. Nebulizers can be less effective if a child is crying during use, since less medicine will be inhaled.
Be sure the doctor shows you how the nebulizer or inhaler works so that you can teach your child how to use it correctly. Improper usage may result in less medicine getting into your child's lungs. Reviewing the instructions that come with the inhaler and practicing at home can help, too.
If you have any questions about the device or if you're concerned that your child isn't getting the proper dose of medication, talk to your doctor.
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN-MA) Through education, advocacy, community outreach, and research, AAN-MA hopes to eliminate suffering and fatalities due to asthma and allergies. AAN-MA offers news, drug recall information, tips, and more for treating allergies and asthma. Call: (800) 878-4403|
|What's the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? People use inhalers and nebulizers to get asthma medicine into their lungs. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Word! Nebulizer A nebulizer may sound like a space gun, but you don't have to be on a spaceship to use it.|
|Definition: Inhaler An inhaler is a device that gets medicine directly into a person's lungs.|
|Definition: Nebulizer A nebulizer is an electrically powered machine that turns liquid medication into a mist so that it can be breathed directly into the lungs through a face mask or mouthpiece.|
|Asthma Millions of teens in the United States have asthma, a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. Here are the basics on symptoms, triggers, and treatments.|
|What's the Difference Between Quick-Relief and Long-Term Control Medicines? Asthma medicine comes in two main types: quick-relief and long-term control medicines. Even if a child takes a long-term control medicine regularly, quick-relief medicine is still needed to handle flare-ups.|
|Handling an Asthma Flare-Up How can you prepare for an asthma flare-up? Find out in this article for kids.|
|How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Kids who have asthma need to take medicine. But what kind of medicine do they take and what does it do? Let's find out.|
|My Asthma Inhaler Doesn't Help. What Can I Do? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Asthma Center Asthma means breathing problems. Find out what's going on in the lungs and how to stay healthy, if you have it.|
|Asthma Center Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma.|
|Who Can Use an Inhaler? Inhalers are often used to get asthma medicine into a person's lungs. How old do you need to be to use one? Find out in this article for kids.|
|How Can I Deal With My Asthma? Asthma is more common these days than it used to be. The good news is it's also a lot easier to manage and control.|
|How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Two different types of medicines are used to treat asthma: quick-relief medicines and long-term control medicines. Read about how they work - and why people might need to take them.|
|Inhaler or Nebulizer: Which One Should My Child Use? Nebulizers and inhalers deliver asthma medicine to the lungs, and they work equally well when the correct technique is used.|
|What's the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? Inhalers and nebulizers are two different devices used to get rescue or controller medications directly into the lungs. Find out how they work by reading this article.|
|What's an Asthma Flare-Up? An asthma flare-up (or attack) can cause coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Sometimes, symptoms can be severe. Find out what causes flare-ups and what you can do in this article.|
|Asthma Center Asthma keeps more kids home from school than any other chronic illness. Learn how to help your child manage the condition, stay healthy, and stay in school.|
|How to Avoid the ER if You Have Asthma Going to the ER is the last resort for someone who has asthma. The good news is that you can prevent this by getting your asthma under control. Get some tips on how.|
|Asthma Asthma can cause a person's airways to get swollen and irritated, making it hard to breathe. Find out more in this article for kids.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.