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General Practice 2023

Nebulização: what é, what it is for and how to do it

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Nebulização: what é, what it is for and how to do it
Nebulização: what é, what it is for and how to do it

Nebulization is a treatment performed to unclog the airways, through the inhalation of steam, which may contain saline and/or medication, and which helps to humidify the airways and fluidize the phlegm, making it more easy to eliminate, making breathing easier.

Generally, nebulization is indicated in cases of problems that affect the respiratory system such as flu, colds, sinusitis, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for example, and must be done using an electric nebulizer at home, or performed in hospitals by the nurse.

Nebulization typically lasts about 15-20 minutes and can be done 2-3 times a day, having a quicker effect on the airways and fewer side effects than oral medications. Despite being a relatively simple treatment, nebulization should be performed under medical supervision, especially when medication is indicated.


What is it for

Nebulization is indicated to help clear the airways and facilitate breathing, in the case of problems that affect the respiratory system, such as:

  • Flu;
  • Cold;
  • Sinusitis;
  • Pharyngitis;
  • Tonsillitis;
  • Asthma;
  • Bronchitis;
  • Bronchiolitis;
  • Bronchiectasis;
  • Pulmonary fibrosis;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Cystic Fibrosis.

In these cases, nebulization may be indicated by the doctor to relieve symptoms, help prevent shortness of breath and improve breathing. Nebulization is also often complemented by other forms of treatment, with the use of medication or respiratory physiotherapy, for example.

How to nebulize

Nebulization must be performed using an electric nebulizer, which may include only the use of saline solution to hydrate the airways, or inhaled medications, such as steroids or bronchodilators, which must be indicated by the doctor.

Before nebulization, make sure that the nebulizer is clean and has all the parts, that is, if it includes a mask, nebulizer bottle or cup, plastic tube and compressor device.

After that, follow the steps below:

  1. Wash your hands with water and mild soap, and dry with a clean, dry towel;
  2. Place 5 to 10 mL of saline solution and/or the medicine in the doses recommended by the doctor, in the nebulizer cup;
  3. Fit the top of the nebulizer cup onto the mask;
  4. Connect the plastic tube to the nebulizer cup and the compressor device;
  5. Sit or lie back on a bed, in a comfortable position;
  6. Turn on the nebulizer and observe if a mist is produced inside the mask;
  7. Put on the mask, which must cover the mouth and nose;
  8. Breathe through your mouth deeply and slowly for about 2 to 3 seconds before exhaling to allow the steam to reach your lungs;
  9. Continue nebulization until no more mist comes out of the nebulizer.

When the nebulizer is finished, remove the mask and turn off the nebulizer.

Furthermore, it is also important to be careful when storing saline solution, which, after opening, must be used within a maximum period of 15 days, stored in the refrigerator. To use the serum again, remove it from the refrigerator before using and wait for it to reach room temperature, to avoid worsening of nasal congestion or even bronchospasm.

Another important recommendation is to rinse your mouth after nebulization, especially when corticosteroid medications such as budesonide or fluticasone are used, for example, to reduce the risk of fungal infections in the mouth.

How to nebulize baby

To use the nebulizer on babies or children, the mask must be held in order to ensure that it is correctly positioned, so that the mist is breathed and the treatment has the expected effect. In addition, the infant or child must be seated on a lap or in a car seat.

Nebulization can be performed on the baby or children with the use of saline solution, and, in some cases, such as asthma, bronchitis or allergic crises, the pediatrician may recommend the use of medication for nebulization, and it is important to follow the doctor's guidelines regarding the dose and time of use of the nebulizer. See the remedies that the pediatrician can indicate for nebulization in the baby.

Nebulizer care

After nebulization, the nebulizer parts must be cleaned every time they are used, it is recommended to wash the cup, mask and tube with warm water and soap or mild detergent, letting them dry naturally.

It is also important to disinfect the nebulizer once a week, which can be done by placing the mask, cup and tube in a solution of white vinegar, prepared with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts hot water, and soaking the parts in this solution for at least 1 hour, or as per the nebulizer manufacturer's instructions.

Furthermore, it is important to store the nebulizer in a dry place, free from humidity, to preserve the device for a longer period of time.

If mold is observed on the device, avoid using it, as it can transport fungi or other microorganisms into the respiratory system, worsening symptoms or causing a new infection.

Main remedies used

Some remedies may be indicated by the doctor to perform nebulization, the main ones being:

  • Bronchodilators, such as albuterol, formoterol, or salmeterol;
  • Corticosteroids, such as budesonide, fluticasone or beclomethasone.

These medications for nebulization should be used only with medical indication, according to the condition to be treated and with individualized doses.

Possible side effects

Nebulization is a safe and well-tolerated treatment, and it is possible for the person to present improvement in the symptoms of respiratory obstruction immediately after using the nebulizer.

However, when bronchodilators or corticosteroids are used, side effects such as tremor, headache, nausea or heart palpitation may occur, and it is important to always inform the doctor when these symptoms appear so that the treatment can be reevaluated.

Who should not nebulize

There are no contraindications for nebulization with saline solution, and it can be performed on babies, children, adults and even during pregnancy.

However, nebulization with medication should only be done with medical advice, as some drugs are not indicated for children, the elderly or during pregnancy, in addition to causing side effects.

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