May 03, 2020

What’s the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler?

Nebulizers and inhalers are devices people with asthma use to get medicine into their lungs. These medicines help prevent asthma flare-ups from happening or keep flare-ups that are underway from becoming severe. Understanding the nebulizer vs. inhaler differences and how to treat asthma properly is important for anyone who has the condition. This article answers the question, “What’s the difference between a nebulizer and an inhaler?”.

Asthma Inhalers

An asthma inhaler is a portable, handheld device that delivers medication in doses called “puffs.” The devices are small enough to carry in a purse, backpack, or pocket.

There are two types of asthma inhalers:

  • Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs). These devices are like small aerosol cans. They deliver a measured dose of medication. An MDI may have a built-in counter that shows how many doses are left. If it doesn’t have a counter, it’s important for the user to keep track of how many puffs they’ve taken, as MDIs continue to spray even after all the medication is used.
  • Dry powder inhalers. These devices deliver medication in dry-powder form. The user does more of the work to ingest the substance, as a dry powder inhaler doesn’t spray the medicine.

Your doctor will teach you how to treat asthma with the type of inhaler they prescribe.


Asthma Nebulizers

An asthma nebulizer sometimes called an asthma breathing machine, turns liquid asthma medicine into a fine mist that the person with asthma breathes into their lungs through a mouthpiece or mask. While asthma breathing treatments are effective, it does take approximately 20 minutes to receive the full dose. Plus, nebulizers aren’t very portable and require an electrical supply or batteries to work. 

When to Use a Nebulizer vs. an Inhaler

A number of factors come into play in reaching a nebulizer vs. inhaler decision. They include your doctor’s recommendation, your insurance coverage, and your preference. Some people prefer a nebulizer treatment vs. an inhaler, as they feel like the nebulizer is more effective. However, portability and when to use a nebulizer vs. inhaler is also important in the decision-making process.


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Is It Better to Use a Nebulizer or an Inhaler?

When considering nebulizer treatment over an inhaler, the truth is that both deliver the medication people with asthma need to control flare-ups. So, rather than putting too much effort into the nebulizer vs. inhaler debate, your time is better spent learning how to properly use the device you’re prescribed. If you do that, you’ll be well-prepared to manage your asthma.

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