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The Differences Between Inhalers And Nebulizers



When it comes to delivering medications for respiratory diseases directly to the lungs there are two kinds of devices used, namely:

1. Inhalers

2. Nebulizers

These two similar, yet different devices ensure that the medication is delivered into the lungs quickly and effectively. The device you use will be determined by your medical doctor.

Let’s take a closer look at inhalers and nebulizers:


There are two kinds of inhalers. Both are small, hand-held devices that you can carry in a handbag or even in your pocket. They are:

  • MDIs (Metered Dose Inhalers)
  • DPIs (Dry Powder Inhalers)

MDIs are more commonly used than DPIs. They produce a medicinal spray when activated. DPIs produce a powdered form of the medicine that is not sprayed out. This means that the patient is required to inhale the medication deeply and without delay. Although they are sometimes considered to be easier to use than MDIs, they require more effort on the part of the patient.

On the other hand, MDIs are sometimes tricky to get used to using, especially for those that are unfamiliar with them. Most people use something called a spacer when they use a metered-dose inhaler. A spacer is attached to the inhaler itself and allows the medicine to be stored in a receptacle until such time as the patient is ready to use it. This means that you can inhale when you are ready to, instead of having to do so quickly, as is the case with a DPI. If you do not use a spacer there is the chance that the medication will not be inhaled properly and so not make it into the respiratory system via the airways. Therefore, when using an MDI, opt for doing so with a spacer, as it will ensure that the medication is delivered effectively into the lungs, and so will provide relief more quickly.

In many instances, patients will find that their health care provider will want them to demonstrate using the inhaler. The reason for this is so that they can determine whether or not the patient is using the device properly so that the medication is administered effectively.


Unlike either MDIs or DPIs, nebulizers are either battery powered, or electrically powered, and is a machine or device that converts liquid medicine into a fine mist.

The mist passes through a tube that is connected to either a face mask or a mouthpiece. For babies, small children, and the elderly, nebulizers are great alternatives to inhalers, because the patient is not required to do anything except inhale the medication. For those that are older and can operate the device, the mouthpiece is the preferred delivery method over the face mask, which is really just a cup that fits over the nose and mouth.

Nebulizers ensure that medication is delivered straight into the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system effectively and quickly. In fact, using one should not take longer than ten or twenty minutes. Because of their size, however, nebulizers can be bulky to transport. Also, they can be rather loud when in use.

In Closing

No matter which device your doctor advises it is important that you know how to use it properly. Failing to use the device correctly will result in the medication not being adequately inhaled into the lungs.