Compressor Nebulizer


Some of you may or may not be familiar with a compressor nebulizer. It’s not something you probably see every day. When you look up the word compressor nebulizer, Google will show you this unique-looking white machine that makes you wonder: what does this little thing do, and why do some people need it? This article will discuss some facts about compressor nebulizers.

What is a Compressor Nebulizer?

A nebulizer is a medical device that turns liquid medicine into a mist of droplets that you can inhale into your lungs. In other words, it is a respiratory drug delivery machine. You breathe in the mist through a mask or mouthpiece. 

Nebulizer kits include:1

  1. A mouthpiece: where you breathe in the liquid medication
  2. A nebulizer cup: a place to put your medicine that connects to the mouthpiece
  3. An air compressor: generates airflow within the compressor-nebulizer system
  4. An air filter
  5. An air tubing

Why is a Compressor nebulizer used?

Compressor nebulizers have been extensively used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases.1,3 

However, nebulizers are not only limited to that. Elderly people, patients who have difficulty using hand-held inhalers, people with a lung condition such as cystic fibrosis, and patients who require high treatment doses or have comorbidities also use this compressor therapy.2, 4 

Patients with COPD can use these compressor nebulizers for home care and in a hospital setting.4,5 They are suitable for patient inhalation. Furthermore, they are often used for patients that have been administered high doses of bronchodilator medications to their airways where it can be difficult to breathe.3 

Apart from the compressor nebulizer, the metered dose inhaler is another commonly used delivery system. There is a chance that you might see this inhaler before, used by your friends and family or show up in movies.6

How do compressor nebulizers work?

The compressor is essential to generating airflow. Meanwhile, the nebulizer is responsible for the interaction between air (generated by compressors) and the liquid medicine that converts into mist or aerosol medication.2 

Other than that, it can convert liquids into aerosols of the desired size so they can be easily inhaled into the lungs.7 

The efficiency of the compressor and patient-related factors might affect the nebulizer performance in terms of the particle size of the mist droplets and how fast the drug delivery is. Lower air flow by the compressor can lead to longer nebulization time which can be a barrier to effective therapies. The larger drug droplets might affect how well the mist enters your lungs.7 Thus, it is vital for the patients to learn information about the performance of their compressor nebulizers.

Types of Compressor nebulizers

There are several types of compressor nebulizers. One of them is a jet nebulizer. Jet nebulizers use compressed air or oxygen with drug particles to generate aerosol mist. The nebulizer has a baffle to catch larger mist.8

Another type of compressor nebulizer is an ultrasonic nebulizer. It utilizes ultrasonic power to produce a small amount of inhalable mist. Ultrasonic power in the nebulizer breaks down the medication solution into smaller droplets using high-frequency vibrations. Like the jet nebulizer, the ultrasonic nebulizer also has a baffle (a device used for the restriction of fluid flow) to trap larger droplets.8 However, it is less widely used due to its high cost.9

How do I use it?

The nebulizer looks complicated enough. Surely, it might be complicated to use, right? As long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, you are good to go!

Here are the crucial steps on how to set up and use your nebulizer:

  1. Make sure to wash your hands first. 
  2. Connect the hose to an air compressor.
  3. Pour your medicine into the medication cup. Then, close the medication cup (make sure it is tight) and hold the mouthpiece straight up and down.
  4. Attach the hose and mouthpiece to the medicine cup.
  5. Put the mouthpiece/mask in your mouth. (Small children usually do better with a pediatric mask)
  6. Inhale through your mouth until all the medicine is gone, which can take up to 10 - 15 minutes. You can use a nose clip to ensure you breathe only through your mouth.
  7. Turn off the machine after you’re done.
  8. The medicine cup and mouthpiece should be washed with water and allowed to air dry before the next use. 

How do I clean it?

Nebulizer hygiene practices are vital to prevent further infection. Moreover, there is no amount of cleaning that can damage your nebulizer. Ideally, you have to clean your nebulizer immediately after use.10 

Furthermore, there are some variations in the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean it. 

Generally, you have to:10

  1. Disassemble your nebulizer parts first
  2. Put all nebulizer systems and aerosol heads in warm water with a bit of washing-up liquid for roughly 5 minutes
  3. Rinse the nebulizer parts and the aerosol head under running tap water
  4. Shake them to remove excess water
  5. Place them on a dry and clean surface, allowing them to dry completely. 


How should you store your nebulizer? After cleaning and allowing your nebulizer to dry, store all the parts of your nebulizer in a clean bag.

Make sure to air blow your tubing with a compressor to remove retained moisture after each use.4


A compressor nebulizer is a device that helps many people. It is efficient and easy to use. However, the lack of universality in nebulizer cleaning practices can be confusing. Thus, it is essential for healthcare providers to guide and advise their patients on how to clean it. Inadequate cleaning can damage the nebulizer. Furthermore, it is also essential to know how to store it properly. It is advisable to ask your doctor for additional information if you are unsure or need some help. 


  1. Mukherjee B, Paul P, Dutta L, Chakraborty S, Dhara M, Mondal L, et al. Pulmonary administration of biodegradable drug nanocarriers for more efficacious treatment of fungal infections in lungs: insights based on recent findings. In: Multifunctional Systems for Combined Delivery, Biosensing and Diagnostics [Internet]. Elsevier; 2017 [cited 2022 Aug 2]. p. 261–80. Available from: 
  2. Aquino ES, Vergara AA, Filho LVRFS. Inadequate functioning of nebulizer system compressors used by individuals with cystic fibrosis. Respir Care [Internet]. 2021 May [cited 2022 Aug 2];66(5):829–36. Available from:
  3. Sivadasan S, Krishnan A, Dhayalan SV, Aiyalu R. A systematic review on kap of nebulization therapy at home. J Pharm Technol [Internet]. 2021 Oct [cited 2022 Aug 3];37(5):254–9. Available from:  
  4. Alhaddad B, Smith FJ, Robertson T, Watman G, Taylor KMG. Patients’ practices and experiences of using nebuliser therapy in the management of COPD at home. BMJ Open Resp Res [Internet]. 2015 Feb [cited 2022 Aug 4];2(1):e000076. Available from: 
  5. Awad S, Williams DK, Berlinski A. Longitudinal evaluation of compressor/nebulizer performance. Respiratory Care [Internet]. 2014 Jul 1 [cited 2022 Aug 4];59(7):1053–61. Available from: 
  6. Smith C, Goldman RD. Nebulizers versus pressurized metered-dose inhalers in preschool children with wheezing. Can Fam Physician [Internet]. 2012 May [cited 2022 Aug 4];58(5):528–30. Available from: 
  7. Chandel A, Goyal AK, Ghosh G, Rath G. Recent advances in aerosolised drug delivery. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy [Internet]. 2019 Apr [cited 2022 Aug 4];112:108601. Available from: 
  8. Javadzadeh Y, Yaqoubi S. Therapeutic nanostructures for pulmonary drug delivery. In: Nanostructures for Drug Delivery [Internet]. Elsevier; 2017 [cited 2022 Aug 4]. p. 619–38. Available from: 
  9. Waller DG, Sampson AP. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In: Medical Pharmacology and Therapeutics [Internet]. Elsevier; 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 5]. p. 193–209. Available from: 
  10. MacFarlane M, Carson L, Crossan A, Bell J, Moore JE, Millar BC. Nebuliser cleaning and disinfection practice in the home among patients with cystic fibrosis. J Infect Prev [Internet]. 2020 Jan [cited 2022 Aug 5];21(1):14–22. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Sentia Racha Keyulong

Bachelor of Science - BSc, Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Scotland

Sentia is an experienced Research Assistant and Medical Writer.

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