A small hand-held nebulizer, powered by an air compressor, has been prescribed by your doctor to deliver medicines and moisture to your child's air passages. The medicines and moisture help control your child's respiratory symptoms (such as wheezing) and help loosen secretions in the lungs.


The instructions in this handout will help you correctly perform the procedure and operate the equipment safely. Your health care provider will tell you how often you need to perform this treatment.

What supplies do I need?

You will need the following supplies:

  • Hand-held nebulizer
  • Air compressor
  • Mouthpiece or face mask
  • Clean measuring devices (enough for each solution used in your child's treatment)
  • Individual medication vials

Where should the nebulizer be used?

Use the nebulizer in a well-lighted area. Select a comfortable place in your home where you can give the treatment without being interrupted. It's best if your child sits up straight when taking the treatment.

Place the compressor on a sturdy surface that will support its weight, such as a table or desk. Plug the compressor's cord into a properly grounded (three-pronged) outlet.

What is the treatment procedure

    Preparing treatment
    Preparing Treatment
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a clean towel before preparing the treatment.
  • Remove the top part of the nebulizer cup. Place the medicine in the bottom of the nebulizer cup (illustrations to the right).
  • Attach the top portion of the nebulizer cup and connect the mouthpiece or face mask to the cup.
  • Connect the tubing to the nebulizer and compressor.
  • Turn on the compressor with the on/off switch.
  • Once you turn on the compressor, you should see a light mist
  • If you are using a mouthpiece, have your child place it in his or her mouth with the lips sealed tightly around it.
    Child with Nebulizer
    Nebulizer Mist
    Hand-Held Nebulizer
    If you are using a face mask, position it comfortably and securely on your child's face.
  • Encourage your child to inhale slowly and deeply. Ask him or her to hold his or her breath for a count of 5 and exhale slowly.
  • Your child should continue to inhale slowly and deeply for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the medicine is gone.
  • If your child becomes dizzy and/or shaky, stop your treatment and allow him or her to rest for about 5 minutes. Then continue the treatment, but encourage your child to breathe more slowly. If these symptoms continue, call your health care provider.
  • Turn the compressor off and unplug it.
  • Your child may take several deep breaths and cough into a tissue. He or she should continue coughing until any secretions are cleared from the lungs. Throw away the tissue.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them with a clean towel.

How do I clean and disinfect the equipment?

  • Always clean the equipment in a smoke-free and dust-free location, away from open windows. Clean the equipment after house-cleaning (especially after vacuuming and dusting).
  • Make sure the compressor is turned off and unplugged.
After each treatment:
  • Take apart the nebulizer cup and mouthpiece or mask. Rinse these parts with warm tap water. NOTE: There is no need to clean the tubing that connects the nebulizer to the air compressor.
  • Shake off the excess water and place the parts on a clean, dry towel.
  • Allow the parts to air dry thoroughly.
After the last treatment of the day:
  • Take apart the nebulizer cup and mouthpiece or mask. Wash these parts with warm soapy water using a mild detergent.
  • Rinse all parts with warm water.
  • Shake off the excess water and place the parts on a clean, dry towel.
  • Allow the parts to air dry thoroughly.
Every third day after washing the equipment:
  • Mix a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water in a clean bowl.
  • Soak the nebulizer cup and mouthpiece or mask in the solution for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse the parts well with warm tap water.
  • Shake off the excess water and place the parts on a clean, dry towel.
  • Allow the parts to air dry thoroughly.

How do I store the equipment?

  • Cover the air compressor with a clean towel.
  • Keep the compressor on a sturdy surface that will support its weight. Do not store the compressor on the floor.
  • Check the compressor's filter once a month. Replace it if it's dirty. Unscrew the filter cap, remove the old filter, and replace it with a new one.
  • Always keep an extra filter in case you need it. Your healthcare provider can supply the filters for you.
  • Reassemble the clean nebulizer parts and store them in a small bag between treatments.
  • Always keep an extra nebulizer in case you need it.
Medicine storage
  • Store all of your child's medicines in a cool, dry place.
  • Check the medicines often. Make sure they have not changed color or formed crystals.
  • If you notice any changes in the appearance of the medicines, throw them away. Ask your health care provider to refill your prescription.

© Copyright 1995-2017 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/22/2016...#4255