28 June

Nebulizer for Kids: How Nebulizers Help Kids with Allergic Asthma

Watching our little ones suffer from an illness or injury can be especially tough for parents to see.

We spend a great deal of our time in their young lives wiping runny noses, bandaging scraped and bloodied knees, inspecting swollen and red tonsils with flashlights, and addressing a whole host of other minor sicknesses, all while wiping away tears (sometimes theirs and sometimes our own!).

When it comes to those parents whose children struggle with allergic asthma (also known as allergy-induced asthma), it can be disheartening to see your kids experiencing difficulty breathing during periods where allergies lead to asthma flareups.

Whether seasonal pollen is the culprit to blame, or your neighbor’s cat who likes to sneak into your side door, or a bedroom pillow that is a breeding ground for dust mites, these allergic asthma triggers can work quickly to make your little one wheeze and experience shortness of breath.

This can be especially unsettling for younger children who may not fully understand what asthma is and why it happens.

This is why it is important for parents to have access to treatment and tools that will help address the symptoms of allergy-induce asthma quickly, and a nebulizer machine can make a world of difference when it comes to kids with allergic asthma.

Both as a treatment tool and a preventative tool, a nebulizer is often recommended by pediatricians to help open airways and reduce the discomfort caused by asthma.

What is a Nebulizer?

While most adults with asthma use a simple inhaler and other medications to control their symptoms and prevent flareups, these metered spray devices can still be intimidating and overwhelming for children.

The act of simultaneously gripping and pressing down on the inhaler, with your mouth firmly clamped around its sides, and ensuring you inhale the mist as it is quickly forced out requires an element of coordination (and calm!) that may be too difficult for a nervous child.

Even though using an inhaler does not hurt, it can still be quite difficult to convince a child of that. A frustrated parent may then end up with missed sprays (and wasted medicine) as they try to administer an inhaler to a little one who quickly pulls her mouth away as soon as the mist is released.

A nebulizer machine is an ideal alternative when it comes to administering asthma treatment as it effectively does all of the work without the necessary intervention.

Your child receives the medication through a mask, thanks to a machine that pumps it into mist form over a short period of time (typically 15 to 20 minutes). A nebulizer effectively replaces the short pump of the inhaler with a long, slow misting “session” of sorts.

The nebulizer works by warming up liquid forms of medications; it does this by pumping pressurized air through the liquids, which eventually turns the liquid into a mist.

bear with inhaler

One important difference to bear in mind between inhalers and a nebulizer treatment is portability; you do need a source of power nearby to operate a nebulizer (though you can also purchase some models with rechargeable batteries).

It will likely be easiest to use your nebulizer at home, which gives us some useful tips to make it easier for your kids to adjust to one.

Tips for Parents: How to Get Your Little Ones Comfortable with a Nebulizer

Even though a nebulizer may be an easier way to treat your small child’s allergy-induced asthma than an inhaler, it still presents some challenges. Any type of medical device can spark fear in young minds, and a nebulizer is no different.

There are several things you can do to make it easier to navigate, including:

  • Sticking to treatments at the same time every day. Setting up a consistent routine will help your child get used to using the machine.
  • Allowing them to decorate the nebulizer! Find creative ways to make it look more welcoming, like stickers or letters for their name.
  • A nail painting session! For those who love a little pop of color, you could promise to paint nails or toes while they sit still for a breathing treatment.
  • Reading a book! A favorite story may distract your child while they are using the nebulizer.
  • Naming the nebulizer! Make it fun for your child by having them name the machine, and the sillier, the better. “Belinda the Beautiful Breathing Machine” will bring a smile to your child’s face before you know it.
  • Masking up! Even though you are not using the nebulizer, you could also slip on a face mask while your child uses the machine to support them and make them feel more comfortable.

What Medicines Can Be Used in Nebulizers?

The medicines used most often in nebulizers are those that open the airways.  Known as bronchodilators, these can include medications such as albuterol, which you may be familiar with from traditional inhalers.

Nebulizers can also be used to administer corticosteroids and other asthma medicine used in the treatment of allergic asthma.

Some parents will also use nebulizers to treat coughs and colds with a saline solution, as the mist seems to bring some relief to congested noses and chests.

Be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider first, and do not administer any new asthma medication from a nebulizer without ensuring your physician recommends it.

How to Clean and Care for a Nebulizer

Considering its purpose to administer medication into your young child’s airways, it is crucial that a nebulizer remain clean and cared for properly.

Check the specific manufacturer instructions that came with your nebulizer for care and cleaning information, and you can also use the guidelines below for general reference.

  • Clean your nebulizer daily if it is being used for daily treatments.
  • Be sure you are cleaning the equipment in a smoke-free and dust-free environment, and always be sure your equipment is unplugged before you begin cleaning any components or detaching them.
  • Rinse components of the nebulizer kit (the cup, mouthpiece, or mask) in warm and soapy water and allow them to air dry completely before reconnecting them.
  • You may be able to place these components in the dishwasher, but you should always refer to the manufacturer's instructions first.
  • Do not disconnect the tubing from the compressor or attempt to wash these parts.
  • Wipe down the compressor with a damp cloth if needed to remove dust and debris.

It is always a good idea to keep spare masks or mouthpieces on hand in case you inadvertently damage or lose one.  The compressor will also have a filter that may need to be replaced; check your manufacturer’s guide for this information.

Be sure you store the nebulizer in a cool and dry place, never leaving it on the floor. If you have a “kid-friendly” model or one that you have decorated with your little one, it could easily be mistaken for a toy by other small children. Therefore, you want to be sure it is stored out of reach of small hands.

Tips for Managing Your Child’s Allergic Asthma

While it may not be possible to eliminate every single flareup, there are certainly some proactive steps you can take to minimize your child’s allergic asthma reactions and symptoms.

In some cases, it may be helpful to have your child allergy tested, especially if you need to determine if they are allergic to animals (you may discover the three cats who lived in your home before your little one’s arrival are the source of the problem).

You can also observe when the symptoms flare up (for example, every time they play at a certain playground) and start a process of elimination to try and determine what may be causing the reaction.

The range of steps you can also take to reduce their symptoms or prevent them are:

  • With approval from your child’s pediatrician or allergist, start a daily over-the-counter allergy medicine for kids.
  • Use protective covers on all mattresses and pillows to eliminate dust mites. Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible (especially when sleeping).
  • Use high-quality air filters designed to reduce allergens.
  • Make sure you bathe your child (or have them shower) before bedtime as an extra effort to eliminate any potential allergens from their hair or skin.

If your child continues to struggle and allergic asthma becomes moderate to severe, you may need to start allergy shots. This process can take several years, and it ultimately results in the individual developing an immunity to the source of the allergies. In other words, if you are allergic to dust mites, you are effectively “injected” with dust mites, teaching your body how to respond to them.

Because this is a long process and a commitment, it is best to discuss all of the pros and cons with your physician first.

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