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Nebulizer Use for Children


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

Nebulizer (Child)


Call 911 if:

  • Your child's breathing gets worse after a treatment.
  • Your child complains of chest tightness.

Seek care immediately for your child if:

  • Your child develops a rash or hives after a treatment.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's symptoms are not completely relieved after a treatment.
  • Your child has problems with taste or smell.
  • Your child has a dry or sore mouth or throat
  • Your child complains of a headache.
  • Your child is restless or has tremors.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Prepare the nebulizer for your child's breathing treatment:

  • Wash your hands. Use soap and water. Always wash your hands, or have your child wash his hands, before preparing the nebulizer for use.
  • Prepare the machine for your child. 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 child's 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 child's 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.

How to give your child's breathing treatment:

  • Place the mask on your child's face. You may need to distract an infant or younger child during the treatment. Distraction, such as a movie or favorite toy, may prevent him from removing the mask.
  • Have your older child place the mouthpiece in his mouth. Make sure the mouthpiece is between your child's teeth and his lips are closed around it. Your child should breathe in and out slowly through his mouth until all the medicine is gone.
  • Turn on the machine. Keep the medicine container in an upright position. The whole treatment usually takes 8 to 10 minutes. It may take longer. The treatment is over when all the medicine is gone or there is no more mist coming out. The machine may also make a sputtering noise when treatment is done.

How to clean the 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. When you are done cleaning the nebulizer parts, 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 child's healthcare provider as directed:

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

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.