Skip to Content

How To Use A Nebulizer


A nebulizer is a device that turns liquid medicine into a mist. As you breathe, the mist of medicine moves into your lungs. The medicine may be an antibiotic or other medicine for your lungs. The nebulizer is usually connected to a machine that pushes air through the nebulizer. The air helps turn the medicine into a mist. When a nebulizer is used it is called a breathing treatment or nebulizer treatment.


Call 911 if:

  • Your breathing gets worse after a treatment.
  • Your chest suddenly feels tight after your treatment.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You develop a rash or hives after a treatment.
  • Your hands, arms, or legs shake after the treatment.
  • You have a fast heartbeat and feel dizzy.
  • You have a fever and sore mouth or throat.
  • Your symptoms do not improve, even with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

How to use your nebulizer:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you prepare the nebulizer for use. This may prevent germs from getting into your lungs.
  • Prepare the machine. Place the machine on a hard surface. Check to see if the air filter is clean. If it is dirty, rinse it using cold water and let it air dry. Plug in the machine.
  • Prepare the medicine. If your medicine is premixed, open it and place it in the nebulizer medicine container. If you have to mix medicines, place the correct amounts into the container using a dropper or syringe.
  • Add saline if needed. You may need to add saline (saltwater) to your medicine container. Buy sterile normal saline at a pharmacy. Do not use homemade saline solution in a nebulizer.
  • Connect the container. Connect the medicine container to the machine using the tubing. Connect the mask or mouthpiece to the top of the container.
  • Place the mouthpiece between your teeth. Close your lips around it. You may instead, place the mask on your face.
  • Turn on the machine. Keep the medicine container in an upright position. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply through your mouth until the mist is gone. The treatment is over when all the medicine is gone or there is no more mist coming out. The whole treatment may take up to 20 minutes. The machine may also make a sputtering noise when the treatment is done.

Clean your nebulizer:

  • Clean after each use. Wash the container and mouthpiece or mask with dish soap and hot water. Shake off the excess water and let the parts air dry. You can also attach the nebulizer pieces to the machine. Turn the machine on to dry the nebulizer quickly. Make sure all pieces are completely dry before storing them away.
  • Disinfect every other day after treatment. Soak the nebulizer parts, except the mask, in 1 part diluted white vinegar and 3 parts hot water. Let them soak for 1 hour. Rinse the parts, shake off excess water, and let them air dry. You can also attach the nebulizer pieces to the machine. Turn the machine on to dry the nebulizer quickly. Make sure all pieces are completely dry before storing them away.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.