What is a Jet Nebulizer?

Mary McMahon

A jet nebulizer is a medical device which converts liquid medication into an aerosolized mist which is easy to inhale. Jet nebulizers are used in the treatment of a range of pulmonary conditions, including asthma and cystic fibrosis. They are also known simply as nebulizers or atomizers. Many medical equipment suppliers sell these devices, along with accessories such as tubing, mouthpieces, and face masks which can be used with them.

Jet nebulizers are often used to administer medication to those with cystic fibrosis.
Jet nebulizers are often used to administer medication to those with cystic fibrosis.

A jet nebulizer is used when a patient might have difficulty taking medication in other ways, such as with a metered dose inhaler. These devices are often used in hospital settings when a lot of medication needs to be delivered to the patient's lungs quickly, as when a patient is in respiratory distress. They can also be used at home for breathing treatments. Portable jet nebulizers are available for people with chronic pulmonary conditions who might require treatments while traveling.

Jet nebulizer treatments may be given in the doctor's office or prescribed for home use.
Jet nebulizer treatments may be given in the doctor's office or prescribed for home use.

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To use a jet nebulizer, the patient inserts a nebulizer cup filled with saline solution mixed with medication. Some nebulizers work with sterile single use packages of medication which are inserted into the device before each use. When the nebulizer is turned on, a jet of air is forced through the medication, turning it into a fine spray which is moved along a tube. The patient inhales the medication, ideally through a mouthpiece to ensure that as much medication as possible enters the lungs, although a face mask can be used if the patient will not tolerate a mouthpiece.

Cystic fibrosis is characterized by excessive mucus in the lungs.
Cystic fibrosis is characterized by excessive mucus in the lungs.

After the nebulizer session is often, the patient is often left with an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Rinsing the mouth and brushing the teeth can help eliminate this. Cleaning the mouth is extremely important if the patient has inhaled steroids, because leaving the steroid residue in the mouth can contribute to the development of infections. Nebulizer sessions vary in length, depending on the amount of medication being administered.

Nebulizers deliver medication in the form of a fine mist.
Nebulizers deliver medication in the form of a fine mist.

All of the pieces of a jet nebulizer need to be kept scrupulously clean. Any dirt and contamination will enter the patient's airway, and since patients using such devices usually already have compromised airways, this could lead to serious complications. Most are designed with disposable tubes and mouthpieces which can be discarded after use, although when someone is using the device at home, it may be possible to simply wash and dry these attachments and use them again later. After use, the jet nebulizer should be wiped down and covered to protect it from contamination.

School age children can often be taught to use an inhaler for asthma treatments instead of the more complicated nebulizer.
School age children can often be taught to use an inhaler for asthma treatments instead of the more complicated nebulizer.
A patient should brush his or her teeth after using a jet nebulizer.
A patient should brush his or her teeth after using a jet nebulizer.

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Discussion Comments

Misscoco

A jet nebulizer is a great at-home device to have for older folks. My mother, who is almost 95, has congestive heart disease. She lives at home and is diligent about giving herself a nebulizer treatment twice a day.

She prepares the nebulizer and the treatment takes about 15 minutes. It keeps her airways clear. She knows that it is important, so does it consistently.

BabaB

When my granddaughter was a baby, her parents had to rush her to the hospital with asthma attacks. As her attacks became less frequent, her doctor suggested that her parents get a nebulizer for her, so that they could give her treatments at home.

Her mother could get her to stay still so that the spray got into her airways. It worked well and was so much better than going to the hospital.

She's older now, and when she needs a treatment, she is able to hold the hose and do it herself.

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