Breathing Treatments: Your Questions Answered
So, I get lots of questions about breathing treatments. Here are some of the most common ones, followed by my pithy answers.
Breathing treatment length and effectiveness
How long do treatments last?
I think the average treatment lasts about 10 minutes. It kind of depends on how much flow your nebulizer is generating. It also depends on how many solutions you put into the nebulizer. For example, a breathing treatment with just albuterol should last about 10 minutes. However, if you mix in Pulmicort, the treatment may last up to 20 minutes.
Why do treatments in the hospital seem to get done quicker than at home?
Good question. Some of my patients do say their treatments last about 10 minutes or longer at home. Treatments I give last 5-10 minutes. So, what gives? Well, that’s because I am able to set the flow on the flowmeter to whatever I want. We usually use 10 LPM where I work. The air compressors you use at home have their own preset flow. Some may be set as low as 6 LPM. So, this will make the treatments last a little longer if you take them at home. But, they are equally effective, or they should be.
Why do albuterol treatments in the hospital seem to work better than they do at home?
There is no difference in the quality of albuterol whether it's inhaled in the hospital setting or at home.
Will a nebulizer work for me? Do I need one?
This is a question best answered following a discussion with your doctor. Asking these questions is a great way to begin that discussion. That said, there are some advantages to using nebulizers over inhalers.
What are the advantages of taking breathing treatments over inhalers?
Most inhalers give you one puff of the medicine. They require you to generate enough flow when you inhale. This is the only way to get the medicine to your lower airways where it’s needed. Some people with COPD are unable to generate this flow. This is especially true during flare-ups or during the later stages of the disease. This makes breathing treatments ideal for these patients. The is because the medicine is inhaled over a period of time, and your ability to generate a certain amount of flow is less important.
How do nebulizers work?
Ever take physics and learn about the Bernoulli principle?. This is the name of the principle that explains how it works. A flow of air enters a tiny opening in the bottom of the nebulizer cup. This creates a stream through the water. This stream moves so fast that it creates a negative pressure along its sides. The solution is sucked into this stream and turned into a mist to be inhaled.
How do I get a nebulizer? How much do they cost?
Modern nebulizer systems are relatively inexpensive. You can purchase them at stores like Amazon. I bought a basic table unit on Amazon for around $50. You can also get a prescription from your doctor. When you do this your insurance may cover most or all of the cost. When you do this you will probably get a basic unit like the one I purchased. There are some people who prefer a specific nebulizer brand. For instance, some people want a portable nebulizer. Some insurances may cover the cost of these. But, chances are you'll have to cover the cost of these our of your own pocket.
So, these are some of the most common questions I hear about nebulizers and breathing treatments. If you have any further questions, please ask in the comments section below.
Which of the following best describes your COPD diagnosis?