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Portable Nebulizer

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Nebulizers are designed to deliver inhaled medications to people with respiratory disorders and have improved the quality of life for many people with chronic airway disease. Advances in technology have driven their size to as small as six ounces, making newer models truly portable and ever easier to toss into a backpack, diaper bag or briefcase for people on the go. Portable nebulizers are small machines typically run from multiple power sources (such as AC, DC and/or batteries) and generally come with carrying cases to make use outside of the home easier.

Nebulizer treatment effectiveness is measured in terms of how well it produces an opening of the airway (bronchodilator response). This response is a combination effect caused by the nebulizer and the medication. Each plays a distinct role. The nebulizer is supposed to deliver the medication as deeply into the lungs as possible. The medication relaxes and opens air exchange. Nebulizers are available in several forms: portable use, home use and clinical/hospital use.

Nebulizers fall into two broad consumer categories: portable and non-portable. Portable nebulizers are well suited for active people who prefer to take treatments rather than use inhalers (metered dose inhalers or MDIs). They are also helpful for parents of asthmatic children who are too young to use inhalers or a mouthpiece. Most insurance companies pay for these when prescribed by a physician or other licensed practitioner.

Non-portables are larger, require AC power and are not really designed for use outside the home or clinic. These are well-suited for people with more sedentary lifestyles or clinics that require more sophisticated features. Non-portables tend to be more durable and efficient. Features and price vary by manufacturer.

There are two basic parts to a nebulizer: the compressor that aerosolizes the liquid medication, and the nebulizer, which consists of a medication reservoir and mouthpiece. Infants, young children and adults who require nebulizer treatment but are not able to hold a mouthpiece may wear a mask instead. Medication is also essential.

Nebulizer Compressors
Nebulizer compressors that work by using a high-pressure gas, such as oxygen, to create the medication mist are called jet nebulizers. They produce small droplets of medication, which is optimal for reaching the deepest part of the lungs. Because these droplets effectively open blocked airways, jet nebulizers are the most commonly used type of nebulizer.

Nebulizer compressors that work by the medication mist without a piston-driven mechanism, and instead rely on sound wave technology are called ultrasonic nebulizers. Like jet nebulizers, ultrasonic nebulizer compressors can be portable or not, and may be better at delivering medication in some cases. They are not considered standard and most insurance companies won't pay for them. The only exception is for people with cystic fibrosis where the medical benefits have been clearly demonstrated.

When buying a nebulizer, realize that it's a piece of equipment that could save a life. It will also be used for a long time. Consider buying the best machine that meets all needs and still fits the budget.

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