An albuterol nebulizer relieves muscle tightening in the airways to help a person breathe. The nebulizer turns liquid medication into a mist, helping it reach the lungs faster.

Generally, nebulizers are a good way for people to give medicine to children, as all they have to do is sit and breathe through a mask. However, albuterol is not suitable for everyone.

Read on to learn more about how albuterol nebulizers work, conditions they may help with, and how to use them.

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Albuterol is a type of bronchodilator drug. It works by dilating the airways, making it easier to breathe for people who experience bronchospasm, or tightening of the airways. Albuterol sulfate (AccuNeb) is a liquid form of this medication.

A nebulizer is a machine that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist. A person breathes this mist through a mouthpiece or face mask. These devices can make it easier to administer medications to a child.

However, some younger children may find wearing a mask distressing, causing them to cry. This will make the nebulizer less effective.

Nebulizers come in different shapes and sizes, with some bulkier than others. Some are battery powered and others come with a power cord. People may notice some nebulizers are noisier than others.

Before anyone uses albuterol with a nebulizer for the first time, a doctor will show them how to put the nebulizer together and how to add the medication. Nebulizers can vary in design, so even if someone has used one before, it is important that they follow the instructions.

A person can follow these steps when using albuterol with a nebulizer:

  1. Wash the hands.
  2. Follow the assembly instructions to put together the nebulizer and attach the mask, tubing, and mouthpiece.
  3. Open an albuterol sulfate foil and check the color. It should be clear and colorless. If it is cloudy, do not use it.
  4. Add the albuterol sulfate to the medicine cup.
  5. Turn the nebulizer on.
  6. Sit in a comfortable position that makes breathing easier.
  7. Hold the mouthpiece over the nose and mouth with one hand. With the other hand, hold the medicine cup upright to help the medication pass through the nebulizer.
  8. Take deep slow breaths and continue breathing through the mask until all the medicine is gone. The treatment may last between 10–15 minutes.
  9. Turn off the nebulizer and disconnect the parts as per instructions.
  10. Follow cleaning instructions for the nebulizer and face mask, then put them away.

Once a person uses a nebulizer a few times, they may not need to rely on the instructions as much. A person should be sure to take care of the nebulizer and ensure it is clean to keep it working efficiently and stop the growth of harmful bacteria.

An albuterol nebulizer relaxes the airways in people who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is effective at treating symptoms such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • chest tightness

It is important to note that while albuterol can provide symptom relief, it does not cure any health conditions.

Adults and children who are older than 2 years old can use an albuterol nebulizer. A doctor will determine how much albuterol a person needs and how often they should use the medication.

If a person is pregnant or nursing, they should make their doctor aware of this before taking albuterol. If anyone learns they are pregnant while using an albuterol nebulizer, they also should tell their doctor as soon as they can.

People can still use albuterol while pregnant, but as there are no high-quality studies on its safety during pregnancy, people will need to discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor.

Who should not use an albuterol nebulizer?

Albuterol may not be suitable for some people. Before using albuterol with a nebulizer, a person should make their doctor aware of any underlying health conditions to ensure this medication does not interact with them.

It is especially important to notify a doctor about:

If a person could have one of these conditions, they should ask a doctor to perform diagnostic tests to rule them out.

Albuterol nebulizers can interact with other medications. A person should tell their doctor if they are taking other medications before they start albuterol, including:

It is also important that a person tell their doctor if they have recently stopped taking MAOIs or tricyclics in the past 2 weeks.

Using albuterol at the same time as these drugs may cause serious drug interactions.

People should not use the nebulizer a doctor has prescribed to inhale any other type of drug.

If a person takes any supplements, such as vitamins or herbal remedies, they should also discuss these with their doctor before trying albuterol.

In some cases, albuterol can cause side effects. The most common side effects are:

  • an irregular or fast heartbeat
  • nervousness
  • shakiness
  • chest pain

If these side effects occur and do not get better, or they become disruptive, talk with a doctor as soon as possible about ways to manage or avoid them.

Occasionally, albuterol may cause breathing difficulties to get worse. If this occurs, call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately.

A person should also get emergency help if they experience the following symptoms of a serious allergic reaction after using albuterol:

  • hives
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chest tightening
  • swelling in the throat, face, lips, hands, feet, or legs
  • difficulty breathing
  • shock, which involves a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness

A person should not use an albuterol nebulizer to treat a child who has croup. Albuterol is not effective at reducing voice box swelling. Treatments a doctor can offer for croup may include:

  • corticosteroids
  • nebulized epinephrine
  • antibiotics, if the other treatments do not work and there could be a bacterial infection

Learn more about home remedies to help with croup.

A person cannot develop an addiction to albuterol. However, people may feel dependent on albuterol if their symptoms are severe. If this is the case, people should speak with a doctor about how to better control their symptoms. Some people need more than one type of medication to control asthma.

Inhaling too much albuterol can cause:

  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • seizures

If someone has taken too much albuterol or experiences these symptoms after using it, they should call 911 or go straight to the emergency room.

People should speak with a doctor if they have any concerns or questions about using an albuterol nebulizer. People should also contact a doctor as soon as possible if:

  • they need to use albuterol more or less often than a doctor prescribed
  • their symptoms are getting worse despite albuterol use
  • they also need to obtain a rescue inhaler, as scientists have not studied albuterol as a treatment for acute asthma attacks

Call 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department if:

  • someone inhales albuterol that is not clear and colorless
  • a person’s breathing gets worse while using albuterol
  • they are struggling to get enough air
  • they use too much albuterol
  • they have a severe side effects or new symptoms after using albuterol

Albuterol sulfate is a bronchodilator that expands the airways, allowing a person to breathe. Albuterol nebulizers allow people to inhale the medication as a mist. The medication can help manage the symptoms of conditions such as asthma and COPD.

Albuterol is not an addictive medication, but people may feel dependent on their nebulizer if their symptoms are not well controlled. Always speak with a doctor before adjusting the dosage of albuterol.