A nebulizer can help treat certain respiratory conditions in babies and infants.
A nebulizer can help babies and infants take in medication while breathing normally.
In this article, learn about how a nebulizer works, how to keep a baby calm while using one, and how to keep it clean.
A nebulizer is a medication delivery system for aerosolized inhaled medication. It warms up liquid medication to form a fine mist. The baby can then breathe the medicine into their lungs, making breathing easier.
The nebulizer works by pumping pressurized air through the liquid. Once it has formed a fine mist, the baby breathes it in through a mouthpiece or face mask.
To use the nebulizer on the baby:
- Wash the hands thoroughly and make sure they are completely dry.
- Collect the nebulizer, tubing, and mask ready to assemble.
- Fill the medicine cup with the prescribed dosage of medication, closing the medicine cup tightly.
- Connect one end of the tube to the nebulizer and the other end to the medicine cup.
- Place the mask onto the baby’s face, ensuring it is comfortable for the baby.
- Plug in the nebulizer and turn it on. Mist should appear.
- Some older nebulizers can take as long as 25 minutes to deliver the medication.
- If a person needs to interrupt the treatment, turn-off the nebulizer to avoid wasting medication.
- Turn off the machine when the medication cup is empty.
- Take the nebulizer apart and wash the medicine cup and mask in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and air dry. Once dry, store in a clean place.
Some babies find it hard to remain still, and some may even bat away the nebulizer mouthpiece. This may make it difficult for some people to ensure the nebulizer is working.
The following tips might help:
- Babies are more comfortable with routine, so incorporate the treatment into this daily routine.
- Familiarize a baby or infant with the nebulizer, give it a special name or make the process fun by reading a story, singing, or using toys.
- Some nebulizers for infants come with animal faces or other child-friendly designs that may help ease their fear.
- Where possible, sit the baby in a highchair. If this is not an option, then place them in your lap for comfort and stability.
Nebulizers are a good option for children with severe breathing issues due to a cough or cold, but it is vital only to use medication that a doctor prescribes and follow their instructions.
With proper use, a nebulizer can clear congestion in babies to help them breathe better. Anyone concerned about safe use can also ask a doctor to demonstrate how to use the device.
A doctor may recommend a nebulizer for an infant if they have swollen airways or experience shortness of breath or any breathing issue that could be due to:
- chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis
- lung infections, such as pneumonia
- severe allergic reactions
They may have symptoms such as
- shortness of breath
- rapid breathing
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- slow recovery from bronchitis
Nebulizers can deliver a range of prescribed medications, such as:
- Inhaled antibiotics: Antibiotics can treat certain bacterial infections.
- Inhaled beta-agonists: These include albuterol or levalbuterol. They help relax the airways and make breathing easier.
- Inhaled corticosteroids: These can treat inflammation due to asthma.
- Dornase alfa (Pulmozyme): This medication helps treat cystic fibrosis by loosening thick mucus in the airways.
Always wash the nebulizer after each use, but it also needs a thorough cleaning once a week. To do this:
- Soak the mask, top piece, and medicine cup in a vinegar and water solution for 30 minutes or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Let it air dry in a clean, cool place.
- Wipe down the compressor and tubing with a disinfectant wipe. Do not submerge them in water.
- Change the air filter every 6 months or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If a person follows a doctor’s instruction and the cleaning guidelines, nebulizers are a safe and effective way to deliver medication to a baby.
Contact a doctor if the baby appears to have more difficulty breathing after using the nebulizer.
It is also vital to monitor the baby, as they can have an unexpected reaction following treatment, especially if it is the first time they are using it.