Characterized by a swelling and narrowing of the airway that decreases a person's ability to breathe, asthma can be a serious and often life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, it is also a very common respiratory disorder. As a matter of fact, an estimated 6 million children are currently living with asthma. If your child has this condition, you most likely have discussed numerous treatment options with their pediatrician.

From avoiding strenuous activity to using a portable inhaler to administer medication, treatment options are effective for many children. However, the use of a nebulizer may be necessary. Nebulizers allow you to administer a fine mist of medication directly into your child's airway to help treat their asthma. While beneficial for younger children who are unable to use an inhaler on their own, nebulizers can be effective for asthma patients of all ages. If your child will be using a nebulizer, use this guide to help maintain this imperative machine.

Daily Maintenance

Before each use, do a basic inspection and cleaning of your nebulizer mask and tubing. If the mask or tubing is visibly worn, consider replacing these parts.

Over time, germs, moisture, and even the medication will build up on the mask and inside the tubing. A quick disinfecting of the mask should be completed before each use.  Wipe the mask and tubing down with a solution containing warm water and rubbing alcohol. Make sure to rinse and dry off the items before using the nebulizer.

Weekly Sterilization

Each week, a more involved cleaning of the equipment will be necessary to protect its function and ensure your child is receiving the adequate amount of medication during their treatment. Thankfully, the sterilization process is not too complicated.

To get started, wash and dry your hands. Then, disassemble the nebulizer equipment, disconnecting the tubing and mask from the machine. Place the mask in a sink filled with warm water and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Then, place the mask on a towel to dry.

Fill a sink or tub with 3 parts warm water and 1 part distilled vinegar. Add the remaining nebulizer parts to this solution to soak. Do not place the tubing or mask into this solution because the acidic properties in the vinegar may damage the plastic pieces on the tubing and mask.  Make sure to rinse off the parts under warm water before placing them on a towel to air dry.

After drying, reassemble the pieces of the nebulizer and turn the machine on to help the compressor dry out.

It is important to note that some manufacturers recommend placing the parts into a dishwasher for weekly sanitizing. Consult the owner's manual to determine if this recommendation applies to your specific make and model. However, never place the mask or tubing into the dishwasher, since the excess heat can damage these components.

Replace Filter

The nebulizer contains a filter that traps dirt, dust, and other allergens. Without replacing the filter, your child will be breathing in allergens during their treatment, which can lead to further breathing complications. Replacing the filter regularly is essential.

When you first receive the nebulizer, make sure to order spare filters to keep on hand. Every manufacturer has their own suggestions on when to replace the filter, but you will notice signs that the nebulizer filter should be changed. Pay attention to the color and consistency of the mist during the treatment. If the mist is discolored and weak, the filter may be clogged with dirt and dust.

A nebulizer is an essential piece of equipment for many children who are living with asthma. To protect your child's breathing, this guide will help you maintain their nebulizer.