The Portable Nebulizer Guide

Posted on September 29, 2016

For patients who have asthma, their physician may recommend a portable nebulizer or breathing treatment. A portable nebulizer delivers the same medication as is used in MDIs (metered dose inhalers). Nebulizers are simpler to use than metered dose inhalers, especially for children. They can also be used on adults who have a critical case of asthma.

A portable nebulizer machine turns liquefied medication into mist form to treat the patient’s asthma. They commonly are battery-run. Alternatively, the patient can use an electric variety. Larger sized nebulizer machines are available that are designed to plug into a wall and sit on a table, as well a smaller sizes the patient can carry with them. Both consist of a tube that connects the medicine container to the air compressor, a small container for liquefied medication, and an air compressor.

What is the best portable nebulizer machine?

Our list of the best portable nebulizers are:

  • LFS Mini Air 360+ Portable Mesh Ultrasonic Handheld
  • MyPurMist Handheld Inhaler
  • MedQuip Compressor System
  • Magicfly Handheld Cool Mist

LFS Mini Air 360+ Portable Mesh Ultrasonic Handheld

LFS Mini Air 360+ Portable Mesh Ultrasonic Handheld

The LFS Mini Air 360+ Portable Mesh Ultrasonic Handheld  is packs quite the punch and is the ultimate personal atomizer for those on the go. This excellent personal machine is light and quiet, it accommodates fine particles 1-5um. It conveniently comes with a USB charger and boasts very low power consumption and silent operation. The LFS Mini delivers medication undiluted to shorten the treatment time and to maximise the treatment benefits. It weighs approximately 70g making it the ideal travel companion and also comes with a convenient travel bag. If you are in the market for a portable nebulizer this one worth considering seriously

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MyPurMist Handheld Inhaler 

MyPurMist Handheld Inhaler


The MyPurMist is not the cheapest handheld steam inhaler but certainly not the most expensive. It also comes packed with many features. It has on demand steam which requires little to no preparation. Given it’s size it is also the perfect accompaniment for anyone who needs to travel. It also uses patented CFV Technology. This is one is ideal for sinus congestion, colds and allergies. This is one useful for those who just require decongestion.

The MyPurMist is a perfect blend of a great price point and quality, so for a simple inhaler solution for basic nebulizer purposes this is a good place to start.

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MedQuip Compressor System


To get us started you may wish to take a look at the MedQuip Compressor System. This system weighs in at 3.8 pounds and is a corded machine, so it is ideal for the entire family. For a system of this price it is also rather well priced. Simply pour your solution into the unit and you are on your way. This easy to use system comes with air tubing therefore you may wish to consider adding a mask for hands free use. It also comes with a carry bag. The MedQuip Compressor makes for a great choice for those who are after a quick and effective treatment in the comfort of their own home. The MedQuip Compressor is therefore recommended for the entire family and is an excellent cost effective solution.

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Magicfly Handheld Cool Mist

Magicfly Handheld Cool Mist

The Magicfly is the perfect blend of affordability and useability. This is ideal for those who live a busy lifestyle and also wanting to mind their budget. This high quality device has CE approval & Safety Test passed. It is recommended for beauty, health care and interior humidifying. It is a very inexpensive option and once you understand how it works, it’s a breeze. The item is rather light at 4.8 ounces and it’s dimensions are 5.5 x 3.1 x 2.2 inches, so again another great example of a perfect inhaler that you can use on the go and also at a terrific price!

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How does a portable nebulizer machine work?

A portable nebulizer works by pressurizing the air passing through the tube and turns the liquefied medicine into a type of mist. During an infection or an attack of asthma, the mist may be simpler to inhale than a metered dose inhaler. When the patient’s airway becomes narrow, such as during an attack of asthma, the patient can’t take a deep breath. This is why a portable nebulizer is a better way to deliver the medicine than a metered dose inhaler, which requires the patient to take a deep breath.

Portable nebulizers can supply long-acting or short-acting asthma medicine. In addition, more than one medicine can be used in the same treatment. The physician will prescribe the dose and type of medication the patient receives. The patient may get a premixed container of liquid that can be put into the machine. Alternatively, the patient may have to mix the medication before each use.

How to use an inhaler?

The patient’s physician will tell them how often the nebulizer needs to be used. The patient needs to ask their physician if there are any particular instructions for their nebulizer treatment. They should also look at the directions that come with the machine.

These are the directions on how to use a tabletop nebulizer machine, the principles remain the same for a portable nebulizer:

    • Place the nebulizer machine on a flat surface where it can reach an outlet.
    • Make certain all the parts are clean
    • The patient needs to wash their hands prior to getting the medication ready.
    • If the medication has been premixed, the patient should put it in the container. If the patient needs to mix the medication, they need to measure the right amount and then put it into the container
    • Then connect the compressor to the tube and the container.
    • Put the mask or mouthpiece on the portable nebulizer.

Put the switch on and make sure the portable nebulizer is giving out a mist.

  • The patient then needs to put the mouthpiece into their mouth and put their mouth around it or put the mask over the mouth and nose. They need to make sure there aren’t any gaps.
  • The patient needs to make sure the container remains upright throughout the treatment.


How to clean and care for a portable nebulizer

The portable nebulizer needs to be cleaned after using it and should be disinfected every other treatment. As the patient is breathing the vapor from the nebulizer, it needs to be clean. If the nebulizer is not cleaned properly, bacteria could grow inside the machine. The patient needs to follow their physician’s instructions for disinfecting and cleaning to make sure they aren’t breathing in any dangerous bacteria.

The tubing should be replaced on a regular basis as it isn’t possible to clean the inside of the tubing. The patient’s physician needs to tell the patient how often the patient should change the tubing.

Daily cleaning should involve the following:

  • Remove the mask/mouthpiece and take out the medication container. They need to wash it with mild dish soap and water.
  • The patient should then get rid of the extra water.
  • The patient needs to reconnect the medication container and mask/mouthpiece and turn on the nebulizer to allow the pieces to dry.

How to disinfect the portable nebulizer

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In order to disinfect the nebulizer, the patient should take off the detachable pieces, such as the medication container and mouthpiece. Then they need to soak them in the mixture provided by the doctor. It usually involves mixing three parts water and one-part white vinegar.

The solution should soak for an hour or as long as it says in the directions. Then they should take off the pieces and reconnect them to the machine to dry them or let them air dry. They need to check with their physician to ensure they have the right instructions for disinfecting and cleaning the machine.

Other things to know about a portable nebulizer machines

The patient should talk over an asthma treatment plan with their physician. Portable nebulizers are good treatments for asthma; however, the treatment takes longer, they require a source of power, and are noisy. If the patient is helped by a metered dose inhaler, the physician may recommend a nebulizer to use only when the metered dose inhaler isn’t working. Having something like a nebulizer available can be a good backup plan in order to avoid emergency department visits.

History of nebulizers

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The first nebulizer was designed by Sales-Giron in France in 1858. The device was initially used to atomize liquid medicine. The handle on the pump worked like a bicycle pump. When the pump is pulled on, it brings up fluid from the nebulizer, allowing for the patient to breathe it in. The fluid is then pressurized through an atomizer. It is then sprayed out so that it can be inhaled by the patient’s mouth.

The first steam-driven nebulizer was invented in 1864 in Germany. This was known as the “Siegle’s steam spray inhaler”. It used the Venturi principle to atomize liquid medication. This was the beginning of nebulizer treatments. The importance of the size of the droplets was not understood at that time, so the effectiveness of this device was mediocre.

The Siegle spray inhaler was made up of a spirit burner, which used boiled water in the reservoir and turned it into steam that could flow across the top and into a tube that was hung up inside the solution. The passage of steam brought the medication into the vapor and the patient inhaled this vapor through a mouthpiece consisting of class.

The first nebulizer machine that used electricity was called a Pneumostat and was first invented in the 1930s. This device involved used adrenalin chloride as a bronchial muscle relaxant that reversed the bronchospasm. It was made into an aerosol by an electrical compressor. As an alternative to the electric nebulizer, many people in the 1930s used the cheaper and more simple hand-driven nebulizer.

In 1956, Riker Laboratories designed a technology that competed against the nebulizer. It involved using a pressurized metered dose inhaler. This device used a cold-filled drug and delivered it in precise doses through specialized metering valves that were powered by gas propellant technology.

A new type of electronic nebulizers was invented in 1964. It was called the “ultrasonic wave nebulizer”. It is often used in humidifiers to allow water to spray into the air, moistening the air in the mucus membranes.

Types of nebulizers

There are many types of nebulizers and portable nebulizers. Some of these include the following:

  • Respimat Soft Mist Inhaler. This was first developed in 1997. It provided a new technology to provide a metered dose to the patient. The liquid bottom of the inhaler is rotated 180 degrees by hand in a clockwise fashion. It adds a buildup tension into a spring around the liquid container. When the patient activates the flexible container, fluid sprays out of two nozzles, forming a mist that is then inhaled. The device doesn’t have any gas propellant and there is no need for power to operate it. The mean droplet size was measured to only 5.8 micrometers, which might indicate some potential problems for the medication to reach the lungs. Trials done since then have shown that this is not the case. Because of the low velocity of the mist, this type of nebulizer has a higher efficacy when compared to traditional nebulizers. The Respimat Soft Tissue Inhaler is a hand-held inhaler that has a hinged cap. The medicine is kept as a fluid in the drug cartridge, which is an aluminum cylinder that contains a plastic, double-walled, collapsible bag. It contracts as the fluid is used. The fluid may be made using EDTA as a preservative. The quantity of preservatives in each puff is very low—only about 0.44 micrograms. There is no bacterial contamination when tests are done on the used cartridges. When 120 doses have been delivered, a locking mechanism prevents twisting of the base so that no subsequent doses can be delivered.
  • Human powered nebulizers. The human powered nebulizer or HPNis made to give relief to patients who suffer from respiratory problems, such as COPD, tuberculosis, and asthma. It is used in parts of the world where there is no electricity. It was invented in the year 2009 by scientists at Marquette University. Human powered nebulizers use a bicycle pedals and a frame, each connected by some tubing and a piston. It turns liquefied medication into a mist that flows into the patient’s lungs through a mouthpiece. These nebulizers use an electrical compressor in order to maintain their airflow rate. With human powered nebulizers, patients can attain the same goal by working at the equivalent of 8 miles per hour.The human powered nebulizer’s performance is just like a commercially available electric nebulizer. Research has shown that the human powered nebulizer might be used as an essential therapeutic and diagnostic tool in treating global respiratory heath issues, including lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The human powered nebulizer has the added mechanical advantage of gearing, which makes the frequency of the human power adequate to allow the pistons to produce enough air flow to make the compressor work. The HPN’s major advantage is that it is a single platform for treating many different kinds of conditions, including asthma, COPD, and tuberculosis.
  • Electrical nebulizers. This is an innovation that was made around 2005, with the development of the ultrasonic Vibrating Mesh Technology. With this type of technology, a membrane/mesh with 1000-7000 holes in them driven by a laser at the top of the reservoir. This allows for fluid to pressurize a mist of extremely fine drops through the holes. This is a more efficient technology, allowing for shorter treatment times. The problems found with the ultrasound wave nebulizer, such as undesired heating and medical liquid, and having too much liquid waste have been solved by this type of nebulizer. There are several nebulizers manufactured with this type of treatment system.Electric nebulizers come in portable models and home (tabletop) models. Electric nebulizers are bigger than other types of nebulizers and must be plugged into an outlet. Electric nebulizers don’t run on batteries. There are portable units that are slightly bigger than a deck of cards. They can be carried around in a backpack briefcase, or purse to be used whenever the patient needs them. To get an electric nebulizer, a prescription from the doctor is necessary. Sometimes the electric nebulizer treatment is done at the doctor’s office. Electric nebulizers differ in cost, ranging from $50 and higher. This doesn’t include the price of the accessories.
  • Jet nebulizers. The most commonly utilized nebulizers are called jet nebulizers, which are also called "atomizers". These types of nebulizers are connected by attaching a tubing to a compressor, causing compressed oxygen or air to flow at extremely high velocities through a liquid medication that turns it into an aerosol, which is then inhaled by the individual. There seems to be a tendency among physicians to prescribe metered dose inhalers for their patients, rather than any other type of nebulizer.Jet nebulizer are generally used by patients in hospitals who have a hard time using inhalers, such as asthma and serious cases of respiratory problems. The major advantage of using a jet nebulizer is that it isn’t very expensive. In today’s time, several nebulizer companies have been able to decrease the weight of the jet nebulizer so that it only weighs about 600 grams. This means that it can be labeled as a portable device. Compared to all competing nebulizers and inhalers, the heavy weight and noise of the jet nebulizer is its biggest drawback.There are seventeen jet nebulizers available. They come from fifteen commercial sources, such as the Acorn-1, the Acorn-II, Salter 8900, PARI-JET, PARI LC Jet, Misty Neb, MB-5, Fan Jet, Downdraft, DeVilbiss 646, Cirrhus, the Sidestream, AVA Neb, and the AquaTower. The Jet nebulizer is filled with two milliliters of saline solution along with 0.5 milliliters of albuterol. The Sidestream nebulizer was much more effective than all of the others. The PARI LC JET and the PARI-JET were also more effective than the others.

Ultrasonic wave nebulizers. These were first invented in 1964 as a newer kind of portable nebulizer. The technology inside an ultrasonic wave nebulizer involves having an electronic oscillator that generates high frequency ultrasonic waves that cause the mechanical vibration of a piezoelectric element. This element is in contact with a fluid reservoir and the vibration (which is at a high frequency) is enough to provide for a vapor mist. As manufacturers create aerosols using ultrasonic wave nebulizers rather than heavy air compressors, they only weigh about 170 grams. One other advantage of an ultrasonic wave nebulizer is that it is nearly quiet. Examples of these types of nebulizers include the Beurer Nebulizer IH30 and the Omron NE-U 17.

For those who have some type of allergy or for those who asthma and need relief from these conditions, ultrasonic wave nebulizers are a good option compared to other types of nebulizers. Ultrasonic wave nebulizers take a medicated solution and turn them into small droplets. These nebulizers are extremely quiet. Ultrasonic wave nebulizers contain transducers that make ultrasonic sound waves. It is the ultrasonic portable nebulizers that have the transducers in them that make the ultrasonic sound waves. It is the ultrasonic sound waves that convert the medicated fluid into very tiny droplets. The sound waves transform the fluid when they come in contact with the surface of the solution.

More Information on Portable Nebulizers

The idea behind portable nebulizers is that they offer a simple way to get respiratory medications into the bronchial tree. Lung diseases are the most common diseases among those who use nebulizers. The quickest way to deliver treatments for pulmonary hypertension, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, COPD, and asthma is through using a nebulizer.The patient can influence the doctor’s choice of a portable nebulizer. Doctors must consider the setting for delivery and the type of drug delivered. In some cases, a drug may have been approved for use with only one type of portable nebulizer, making the decision simple.

These drug-specific nebulizers make use of advanced technologies to provide for a more efficient delivery system than that of conventional nebulizers. Often conventional nebulizers are tested with a drug. The package insert includes information about which nebulizers were used in the clinical trials. This information can be essential as the different types of nebulizers have different features, including how much drug is being delivered.

The different portable nebulizers differ in how they create the aerosol. The 3 current nebulizer technologies include vibrating membrane, vibrating mesh, ultrasonic, or the jet nebulizer. The jet nebulizer is also known as the small-volume nebulizer. It is the oldest type of nebulizer, which makes it the most common. Jet nebulizers come in four varieties: the breath-actuated variety, the vented variety, the valve variety, and the pneumatic variety.

Pneumatic nebulizers make use of a pressurized gas stream to take fluid out of the reservoir and break it down into very small particles. Simple jet nebulizers offer a drug delivery efficiency to the lung at 6 percent to 10 percent. Most doses take this detail into account. Many of the drugs that use these nebulizers to treat diseases such as COPD and asthma. Pneumatic nebulizers are very cheap, costing as little as 0.69 per nebulizer. The downside is that they need a compressor and are extremely noisy.

Vented portable nebulizers also have an aerosol made from pneumatic sources but also have a venting system. When the patient breathes in, they inhale a richer aerosol mixture. When the patient breathes out, they do so by means of an expiratory valve in the mouthpiece so the patient continues collect some aerosol in the nebulizer. As a result, their delivery system has a greater efficiency, at about 10-15 percent. The nebulization time is about fifty percent quicker than conventional nebulizers.

The breath-actuated pneumatic nebulizer is the newest kind of portable nebulizer. Only one of these types of nebulizers has been approved to use with a general purpose portable nebulizer. Breath-actuated nebulizers involve the use of an aerosol when the patient takes in a deep breath and do not do this when the patient breathes out.

The AeroEclipse II is approved for seven days of use, making it a nebulizer that is disposable. Not all nebulizers can be disposed of. Reusable nebulizers are generally recommended for replacement after six months to make sure there is an optimal drug delivery system. Disposable nebulizers generally last for a shorter time, as little as two days. If used beyond this time, the efficiency can decrease and the plastic can break down.

Ultrasonic portable nebulizers are more efficient than vented and pneumatic nebulizers but are not as efficient as breath-actuated devices. They create an aerosol using sound waves created by a vibrating piezo crystal. The nebulizer doesn’t require a compressor. It can’t be utilized with all drugs, however. With this type of nebulizer, much of the medication is not aerosolized but remains suspended with the nebulizer.

Vibrating mesh nebulizers are able to create a high output respirable fraction. They are the newest technology among nebulizers. The technology decreases the amount of medication that is wasted by using a vibrating plate or mesh that have many apertures in them. The vibrating mesh nebulizer may be active when the mesh can be active where the mesh acts as an electronic micropump or is vibrated directly.

Common Solutions Used in a Portable Nebulizer

These medications are common solutions used in a portable nebulizer:

  • Long term. There are long term medications such as anti-IGE that are often given to treat lung conditions such as asthma or as a preventative measure.
  • Beta agonists. These are short acting beta agonists that work to treat acute shortness of breath. They work extremely fast. These include nebulizer medicines such as Ventolin HFA and Proventil HFA. They relax the surrounding muscles that reside in the air passages. It is generally prescribed by physicians to be taken prior to the patient exercising. The patient needs to check with their doctor to see if they need to have the dose adjusted for long term use.
  • Anticholinergics. These are nebulizer medications used to treat chronic obstructive lung disease. A common generic term for this medication is Atrovent. It used to block the nerves that allow the smooth muscle to contract near the air passages. This provides the patient with fast relief that takes just about 15-20 minutes to take effect. The patient can take these types of medications through a metered dose inhaler or through a nebulizer.
  • Beta Antagonists. These nebulizer medications can’t do anything about the swelling of the lung but are instead used as a long term medication to control moderate asthma and chronic lung diseases. An example is Formoterol, which is used along with the use of the nebulizer. They are taken every day along to prevent wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
  • Budenoside. This is one of the more common nebulizer medications that manage wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. This medication is also categorized as a corticosteroid that reduces the inflammation of the airways. There are side effects such as tiredness, sore throat, difficulty urinating, white spots, edema, bleeding, bruising, and muscle weakness.
  • Ipatropium. Another nebulizer medication is known as ipatropium. This medication is given to prevent constriction of the airways, also known as bronchospasm. Bronchospasm happens in asthma, bronchitis, and COPD. Typical side effects include dizziness, headache, dry mouth, nausea, blurry vision, stomach difficulties, and cough. The patient should see their physician if these symptoms last longer than a week
  • Ipatropium and Albuterol. These are nebulizer medications that cause dilatation of the airways. When the airway is dilated and relaxed, the amount of oxygen that gets into the lungs goes up. They are also preventative medicine for bronchospasm. Side effects include headaches, insomnia, stuffy nose, cough, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Considerations when buying a portable nebulizer

Buy a tabletop nebulizer compressive if the patient is able to stay at home for their treatments, if they would like a cheaper nebulizer system, or if they would rather not be concerned about having to recharge the batteries.

Buy a portable nebulizer if the patient would like a smaller model that is easy to carry around, the patient likes to travel, the patient has a busy lifestyle that prevents them from being at home for their treatments.

Some people prefer to buy both types of nebulizers as this is more convenient. If the patient is unsure of what type of nebulizer to purchase, it may be best to purchase a portable model, which offers more versatility.

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