Infants and children younger than 5 with asthma will have difficulty using an inhaler. Some older adults also may have trouble using a metered-dose inhaler (MDI), and people having a severe asthma attack may not be able to control their breathing well enough to use the device.
As an alternative to MDIs, asthma medications can be administered via devices called nebulizers, which turn the medication into a fine mist. Using a mask or mouthpiece connected to the nebulizer, you can breathe in the mist.
To use a nebulizer machine measured drops of liquid asthma medications as prescribed are placed in a chamber between the mouthpiece or mask, and the tubing that connects to the machine. A mist of air and medication is delivered through the mask or mouthpiece and you simply breathe in and out with the mask on or the mouthpiece near your mouth. When the misting stops, the machine can be turned off.
Studies show that MDIs, when used properly, are as effective as nebulizers, so most older children and adults will not need to use this device.
Your doctor may suggest that you buy a nebulizer for home use and will tell you when and how often to use it. Some nebulizers are battery-operated, whereas others must be plugged into an electrical outlet. If you do have a nebulizer at home, be sure to follow directions for cleaning it after each use.