The Surprising Differences Between Nebulizer vs Inhaler

If you’re learning to manage asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or another respiratory condition, you likely feel alone. Did you know over 40 million people in the U.S live with respiratory disease?

Depending on your diagnosis, to treat your condition, you may use an inhaled medication.

Your doctor will suggest one of two methods to use your inhaled medication. While both work for most people, there are a few differences that can mean one works better for you than the other.

Read on for a discussion of the nebulizer vs inhaler and see which one you prefer.

How Does an Inhaler Work?

Whether you have asthma or COPD, or you end up with a severe upper respiratory infection, your doctor may first prescribe an inhaler. You’ll use either a metered-dose or a dry powder inhaler.

Metered Dose

If you prefer your medication to release when you inhale, a metered-dose inhaler is a good option. The medicine goes in a pressurized canister, which fits into a plastic actuator—or mouthpiece.

You inhale and get an automatic dose of your medication. Some inhalers have counters, making it easy to know how many treatments you have left in the canister. You can also get an inhaler with either a valved holding chamber or a spacer. Both help regulate the flow of your medication.

Dry Powder Inhaler

While the metered-dose inhalers propel medication out of the device, a dry powder inhaler relies on a deep, quick breath from you. Some patients prefer the metered-dose over the dry powder inhaler because it doesn’t require a deep breath.

The advantage of using an inhaler is portability. It’s hand-held, and you can drop it in your backpack or purse and have easy access to your medication.

Features of the Nebulizer Machine

Similar to an inhaler, a nebulizer also delivers medication to your lungs. Unlike an inhaler, a nebulizer is a machine. Also, be careful not to confuse a nebulizer with a humidifier (some people do).

The nebulizer converts liquid medication into a fine mist. The mist flows through a breathing tube into a mouthpiece. Instead of the quick deep breath needed when you use an inhaler, with the nebulizer, you take slow, deep breaths.

Nebulizer treatments take about 10-15 minutes. The medication goes quickly and directly to your lungs.

Is There a Competition Between the Nebulizer vs Inhaler?

While it’s not exactly a competition when considering a nebulizer vs inhaler, one has a few advantages over the other. 

Nebulizers are more comfortable to use for most people. It’s not as challenging to breathe in a mist as it is for some people to inhale the quick shot from an inhaler. Small children may struggle to sit still for the treatment, but it’s usually more tolerated than an inhaler.

Inhalers are more portable, but nebulizer manufacturers do offer a portable machine that runs on either electricity or battery. Many people choose both a portable and a table-top model.

Along with choosing between an inhaler and nebulizer, you may also need to use an air purifier, especially you or your child has asthma.

We hope this post helps you choose the best method to help you breathe easy. For help choosing other helpful home comfort items, check out the rest of our blog.

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