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Nebulizer Vs. Inhaler: What Is The Difference?


For people afflicted with respiratory illnesses, having vaporized medication that can be delivered rapidly brings relief. There are two ways to deliver medication for people with respiratory conditions, namely the nebulizer and the inhaler. While they are similar in terms of purposes, they are different in how the medication is administered. At Patient Solutions, we explain the difference between nebulizer vs. inhaler. 

What Is an Inhaler?

Inhalers administer quick shots of medication through a portable device that can be held by hand. There are two different kinds of inhalers, namely dry powder inhalers and metered-dose inhalers (MDI). The most common inhaler in the market will be metered-dose inhalers. The medication will be administered straight to the lungs when the individual inhales it into the lungs. These inhalers must be activated manually by the individual. 

Before we explain the difference between a nebulizer vs an inhaler, we need to know what a nebulizer is.

What Is a Nebulizer?

A nebulizer converts medicine in liquid form into a mist that can be inhaled into the lungs more efficiently than an inhaler. There are different types of nebulizers. With their higher efficiency, they need a longer time to deliver the dose since it runs on electricity. They can take up to 10 minutes to administer medication to be inhaled into the lungs. However, there are handheld, portable nebulizers that can be carried around easily and administer an entire dosage in four minutes. 

So, what are the differences between nebulizers vs. inhalers? Let us discuss a few points.

  • Mode of Operation

Firstly, the way they function is different. Metered-dose inhalers combine aerosol with the medicine to produce a mist. By removing the cap and shaking the device, the user just needs to put the mouthpiece in their mouth and pump the medication in. The medicine will be activated and inhaled in as the user takes big, deep breaths. However, the patient must hold their breath in after breathing in the medication for around 10 seconds before exhaling it out. This ensures the medication circulates around the body to reach the lungs. For dry powder inhalers, the device utilizes powdered, dry medication in capsule form. The individual opens and activates the device. The function is like metered-dose inhalers. If the user keeps their breath in after inhaling the medication, the treatment should have high efficacy.

Meanwhile, nebulizers leverage on compressed air. As they usually run on batteries, they need a power source. They use a vibrating mesh disc to spread the medication that’s liquefied into the lungs. 

  • Portability

As the nebulizer requires a power source, they are typically used at home and cannot be brought out. However, the inhaler works through a physical pump and does not require electricity to work. This allows it to be brought anywhere.

  • Usage

Nebulizers are easier for people to utilize as compared to inhalers. As inhalers require more use for people to get accustomed to it, it may not be easy for seniors or children with asthma to use them. 

Purchase Nebulizers from Patient Solutions

If you are looking for a suitable nebulizer or other types of respiratory medical equipment goods, Patient Solutions has them for you. We offer a broad selection of high-quality medical equipment and supplies to clients both past and present in the military, as well as their dependents, in the continental United States.