Asthma Inhaler vs. Nebulizer: What’s the Difference?

Asthma results from chronic inflammation of the airways, which subsequently results in increased contraction of the surrounding muscles.

This, among other factors, leads to bouts of narrowing of the airways and the classic symptoms of wheezing.

The narrowing of the airways is typically reversible, with or without treatment. While treatment can help get the relief fast, it can take much time to relieve the problem by itself and waiting.

Inhalation is one of the most common techniques for administrating respiratory diseases like asthma.

Nebulizers and Inhalers are the two known devices that can be used to take medicines that help relieve or prevent an asthma attack.

Here in this article, we will try to understand more about these two devices in detail and their advantages and disadvantages.

What Is An Inhaler?

Inhalers are small, handy devices to help relieve asthma attacks in times of emergency.

These are available in metal and plastic. It includes a pressurized tin canister that contains the medicine for asthma.

The device releases the fixed measured dose of medicine when the canister is pressed. This is why these devices are called ‘metered-dose inhalers.’

Inhalers may be used with a ‘spacer’ – a plastic add-on device that is kept between the canister and the user’s mouth to take the inhalation of medicine.

DPI (dry powder inhaler) is another type of inhaler which uses a measured dose of powdered medicine; hence manual loading is needed.

What Is A Nebulizer?

It is a compressor that contains compressed oxygen or air delivered through a tube to the mouthpiece.

Compressed oxygen or air runs with high velocity across the tube into the liquid medicine (available in a small cup in the mouthpiece) to convert it into a fine mist for inhalation.

Nebulizers for asthma usually work with a battery or with electric power.

Jet nebulizers are the most commonly used models as they are easy to use. However, these make loud vibratory noise when switched on.

Inhaler Vs. Nebulizer: What Is The Basic Difference?

Inhalers release the medicine as aerosols, and the patient inhales it through the mouth. He/she needs to manage the inhalation with the release of medicine.

A spacer in the device catches the aerosols and takes them into the mouth through slow, deep breaths 4-6 times.

Patients need to hold their breath for 10-15 seconds to let the aerosols resolve in the bronchial walls.

Nebulizers, on the other hand, change the liquid medicine (added to the cup affixed to the mask) into fine mist through pressurized oxygen.

The patient inhales this fine mist of medicated air for about 10-20 minutes to get relief.

Pros and Cons: Which One Is The Right Option for You?

Inhalers for an asthma attack are affordable, easy to use, and carry everywhere.

Affordable cost makes it highly recommended for daily use and for treating emergency respiratory attacks.

The only drawback of using an inhaler for asthma is it needs the coordination of breath to let the aerosol medicine reach the lungs. If done improperly, it may result in poor breathing relief.

Fortunately, with changing times and medical technology, this issue has been dramatically addressed by the spacer device for asthma.

Nebulizers are used in hospitals when medicines must be given to patients with a tracheostomy collar, those with acute breathing difficulty, intubated patients, those who are in ambulances, etc.

Nebulizers are a bit bulkier and are not portable. Based on the features, these are many times expensive too.

Studies showed that side effects like tremors and anxiety due to asthma medicines might occur if regular medicine is given through a nebulizer.

Can You Use Nebulizer And Inhaler Together?

With the above-detailed analysis, hopefully, we have successfully answered the question you have in mind: Is a nebulizer the same as an inhaler?

Still, many of you may have other questions like:

  • When to use a nebulizer or inhaler?
  • Can we use a nebulizer after using an inhaler?
  • Can we use a nebulizer and inhaler together?

Frankly speaking, there are no strict criteria for using a nebulizer or inhaler for asthma problems.

While nebulizers are suitable to use at home or in hospitals, inhalers can be easily carried and used anywhere you want – due to their compactness and portable nature.

During an asthma attack, inhalers are fast and easy to use and can deliver asthma medications more quickly.

To conclude, both inhalers and nebulizers are equally effective in administrating asthma medicines and can be used as per the patient’s need and condition.

Being portable and easier to use, inhalers are best suited for asthma patients (when used with a spacer) to deliver the medicine to the lungs.

However, as nebulizers are found to be more effective for children, they are used by parents to relieve their children with asthma and other respiratory troubles.

Many people generally use both of these at different times of the day to manage their problems.

In the morning, they often get their aerosol medicine through a nebulizer at home. And then carry an inhaler for their daily use, just in case they need it at time of emergency.