Nebulizers Information

Nebulizer -- image credit wikimedia


Nebulizers aerosolize medications and deliver them as a mist to the lungs of a patient. It is a common means of drug delivery for individuals with respiratory illnesses.


Medical prescriptions and compounds that need to be applied to a patient's lungs are atomized by a nebulizer into an aerosol suspension. Droplets of the medication are less than 10 micrometers in diameter so they are comfortably inhaled by the patient to the lungs, not the mouth or throat. Applying medicine to the respiratory tract hastens its benefits and reduces side effects.


To use, a patient or care aide fills the nebulizer reservoir or cup with the correct dosage. Atomization is completed by manual power, a compressor, a piezoelectric element, or ultrasonic mechanisms. The patient is connected to the nebulizer with a mouthpiece or facemask that may be on an extension hose. The patient slowly takes deep breathes through the machine, which supplies the medicated aerosol in ambient gas, often for 5-25 minutes.


Analytical nebulizers are lab instruments that deliver aerosols to spectrometric elemental analysis.




Soft mist inhaler: A user winds a spring to build pressure in the device, which once released forces a metered dose out of nozzles that atomize the liquid.


Human powered nebulizer (HPN): pedal-driven pistons atomize a liquid and supply it to the patient's lungs


Vibrating mesh: There are two types of vibrating mesh nebulizers. In active vibrating mesh nebulizers, a piezoelectric element vibrates a precision mesh plate that is in contact with the liquid and creates a micropump action that atomizes the liquid. Passive types of this device utilize an ultrasonic horn connected to a piezo element for nebulization.


Breath-actuated nebulizers: The nebulizer only aerosolizes medication when the patient inhales, meaning none of the aerosol is lost through the nebulizer or exhalation valve. These nebulizers can be manual, mechanical, or electronic.


Jet nebulizer: A compressor flows air or oxygen through the liquid to generate an aerosol that can be inhaled.


Ultrasonic nebulizer: A piezoelectric crystal at high frequency (1-3 MHz) creates the aerosol.




  • Medication cup capacity: amount of medication the reservoir can hold
  • Particle size: size range of atomized medications
  • Pressure and flow: range of internal pressures and rate of flow compressor-type

  • Power supply: battery, AC, or DC 



  • Portable: a small profile and light weight enables to nebulizer to be used while travelling
  • Air tubing: enables the patient to sit away from the device
  • Dishwasher safe: the nebulizer is safe to wash in household dishwashers
  • Quiet operation: the nebulizer runs silent or near-silent
  • Auto shut-off: the device shuts off after not being used for a predetermined period
  • Latex free: no latex components for those who are allergic

  • Storage compartments: designated integral locations for the mouthpiece, mask, and tubing 





American Association for Respiratory Care—A Guide to Aerosol Deliver Devices for Respirator Therapists (.pdf)


Georgia State University, Dept. of Respiratory Therapy—Jet, Ultrasonic, and Mesh Nebulizers...(.pdf)


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