Inhalation Treatments

A nebulizer is a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled in to the lungs. A nebulizer compressor moves air into the tubing and a nebulizer cup which breaks up medicines into small droplets that can be directly inhaled from the mouthpieces attached to the nebulizer cup. Air is blown into the nebulizer through tubing attached to a medical compressor.  Children over 5 or 6 years of age can use a nebulizer cup attached to a mouthpiece attachment.  An infant or young child inhales the mist best through a face mask attachment.  Infants and young children breathe more through their noses than older children do requiring their nose and mouth to be covered.   Most medications come in a pre-mixed vial that you can pour into the nebulizer cup (store medication as directed). Some medications require a specific nebulizer cup, because different nebulizers are designed to make different particle sizes in the mist.  The respiratory therapist and doctor can help make sure you have the right nebulizer.

A treatment usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.  The nebulizer compressor has a filter that needs to be changed every six months.  After each treatment the nebulizer cup needs to be cleaned then disinfected at the end of the day to get rid of any germs that could cause an infection.

How to use a Nebulizer with Air Compressor

  1. Wash hands
  2. Get dose of medication and put in nebulizer cup (be careful not to spill any)
  3. Set up air compressor and attach tubing.  Please place nebulizer on a hard surface to allow for proper operation.
  4. Sit up straight and keep the nebulizer cup level
  5. Turn on the compressor and encourage slow, deep breaths
  6. Continue the treatment until the mist stops and medication is gone from the nebulizer cup.
  7. Clean the nebulizer cup, mask, or mouthpiece

How to Clean the Nebulizer


This should be done after every treatment.

  1. Wash hands
  2. Disassemble the nebulizer components
  3. Rinse thoroughly
  4. Let it completely dry
  5. Put pieces back together then put in a clean, dry container or bag

How to Disinfect the Nebulizer

This should be done every day

  1. Disassemble the nebulizer. Always disconnect electronically-powered equipment before cleaning.
  2. Clean parts with mild soap and warm water
  3. Always look at what the nebulizer manufacturer recommends for disinfecting.  There are two options:

Heat Method

– Boiling for 5 minutes
– Microwave in water for 5 minutes
– Dishwasher, if the water is hotter than 158 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes

Cold Method

– Soaking in 70% isopropyl alcohol for 5 minutes
– Soaking in 3% hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes

  1. Rinse the nebulizer parts well with sterile water if you used bleach, isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. (Make sterile water by boiling for five minutes. Use it only once, since it will not stay sterile)
  2. Let completely air dry
  1. Put pieces back together then put in a clean, dry container or bag
  2. You can use a disinfectant wipe on the air compressor and tubing that goes to the nebulizer if needed.   Do not use excessive wet cloth/sponges.

Always follow the manufacturer’s care and cleaning instructions for all equipment used for inhaled medications or airway clearance.  Some equipment may need to be cleaned but not disinfected.  These items can be cleaned often with liquid soap and hot water.

Do not share nebulizers, PEP devices, spacers or anything that has been in contact with sputum or phlegm.