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Nebulizers are an effective way to deliver medication directly to your respiratory system when you’re living with conditions like asthma or COPD, but carrying a nebulizer on the go can be inconvenient. The machines can be heavy and noisy, and it’s not always possible to properly clean and sterilize the equipment when you’re away from home.
Portable nebulizers provide the same effective breathing treatments, but are less bulky, quieter, and don’t require electricity to work. Instead, these handheld devices fit in the palm of your hand and weigh only a few ounces, and usually include rechargeable batteries that work with any USB port. And since most don’t use tubes or hoses to deliver vapor to your lungs, they are easier to clean.
People with respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis may use a portable nebulizer for their breathing treatments before bed to help them get better sleep. Some people have something called overlap syndrome, which means that have both COPD and sleep apnea. Nebulizer treatments before bed can help them relax and improve breathing to help make the CPAP more effective.
The Philips Respironics Innospire Go makes breathing treatments fast and easy, earning it a spot as our Editor’s Pick. Using vibronic mesh technology, which vibrates liquid medication through more than 1,000 microscopic holes to quickly create an aerosol, the Innospire Go portable nebulizer can complete a breathing treatment in under five minutes.
Parents especially appreciate the Innospire Go portable nebulizer for children because it’s easy to use with either a mouthpiece or a mask attachment. Treatment can begin with the push of a button, and when it’s complete, you’ll be alerted with both a visual and audible reminder, taking the guesswork out of treatment timing.
The Innospire Go runs on a rechargeable lithium ion battery and includes an AC adapter for easy charging. Each charge lasts for about 120 minutes, or 30 breathing treatments. Only about the size of a deck of cards, the Innospire Go is easily portable and weighs a mere 4 ounces.
Our pick for the most silent portable nebulizer is the Cotify Portable Cool Mist Ultrasonic Vaporizer. This lightweight, rechargeable nebulizer fits easily into a pocket or small bag for breathing treatments on the go.
This portable nebulizer holds about 8mL of liquid, and delivers medication via mesh technology. Vapor is created via vibrations that send liquid through thousands of tiny holes, allowing medication to be delivered directly to the airways quickly.
The machine operates at 25 dB – which is about as loud as a quiet room, meaning this nebulizer is virtually silent.
Recharging this nebulizer is easy: simply plug it in using the included USB charging cord. It can also use 2 AA batteries. If rechargeable AA batteries are used, the machine will recharge them. However, it drains batteries quickly. We found that one long session, 30 minutes or more, could drain rechargeable AA batteries. We recommend using the built-in battery when possible.
Battery life is a key part of any portable device’s usefulness, and the Raycare Handy Portable Vaporizer provides the longest charge of the models we tested. With a full charge, this nebulizer can provide up to four hours of use before needing a recharge. And recharging is easy: This nebulizer uses a USB that can be plugged into any port (computer, vehicle charger, cell phone, etc.) and fully charges in about two hours.
In addition to offering long battery life, at only about four inches tall the Raycare portable nebulizer is one of the smaller devices we tested. Its small size makes it easy to slip into a small bag for travel, while still providing 10mL of capacity for medication. And despite the small size, the nebulizer can be used with either a mouthpiece or a mask for treatments, or without an attachment as a humidifier.
Easy to use with the push of a button, the Raycare Handy Portable Nebulizer automatically turns off after 15 minutes. It’s virtually silent and easy to clean, making it one of our top picks.
Choosing the best portable nebulizer machine requires looking at more than just price. To ensure you have access to your breathing treatments on the go, you need a device that offers plenty of battery life along with a small, easy-to-transport size. Read on to learn more about portable nebulizers and how you can make the best purchase decision.
For people with respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis, nebulizers are an important part of their treatment. Nebulizers deliver medication directly to the lungs via a mist or vapor breathed in via a mouthpiece or a mask.
Taking medication this way is easy — all you need to do is breathe normally with the device for a few minutes — and effective, as it delivers the medication directly to the lungs. And unlike stationary nebulizers, which need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work, portable nebulizers are designed to be used anywhere. Typically, a portable nebulizer is a handheld unit that can be easily carried in a bag, and runs on batteries so it can be used on the go.
It’s important to note that portable nebulizers are not the same as inhalers or portable oxygen concentrators. While a nebulizer is used to administer long-term control medication on a regular basis, inhalers are often used in emergency or rescue situations.
An inhaler delivers a pre-measured dose of medication to the lungs as needed and requires the user to take a deep breath at the same time they squeeze the inhaler. A portable oxygen concentrator is for people who need higher concentrations of oxygen than typically found in the air; it works by delivering that continuous extra oxygen without the need for heavy tanks.
Portable nebulizers typically come in two types: Jet or compressed air, and vibrating mesh. Each has their own pros and cons, depending on your needs.
|Jet Nebulizer||Vibrating Mesh|
|How medication is delivered||Compressed air is forced through the medication to create a fine mist||Vibrations force the medication through a fine mesh to create vapor|
|Capacity||Up to 15 mL||Up to 15 mL depending on the model, but often less|
|Noise||Compressors tend to be noisier than other types||Virtually silent|
|Treatment duration||8-20 minutes||5-10 minutes|
|Medication Restrictions||All medications can be used in jet nebulizers||Some medications may not be used in mesh nebulizers due to particle size and the heat generated by the vibrations|
Caring for a portable nebulizer is similar to caring for a tabletop or home nebulizer. After each treatment, wash the medication cup and mask or mouthpiece with warm water and a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly, and allow to dry completely before returning it to storage. Every few days, that process should be followed by disinfection. Using a disinfecting solution recommended by the manufacturer or a mixture of half a cup of vinegar and 1.5 cups of water, soak the nebulizer parts for about 20 minutes, rinse thoroughly, and air dry before story. Never rinse the compressor or device itself.
Learn more about how breathing affects sleep and different devices and tips to breathe easier and get more rest with these Tuck resources.