As the world continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare providers and patients are learning the true value of medical preparedness. Where once it was enough to have basic first aid skills or some awareness of CPR techniques, today the focus is on maintaining healthy airways and responding quickly to respiratory distress. It’s why the handheld nebulizer has become an essential medical device for many households.
What Is a Handheld Nebulizer?
Handheld nebulizers are not a new product but they are increasingly common due to the numbers of people now suffering from Long Covid symptoms. Nebulizers are small medical devices that turn liquids into breathable aerosols. They are primarily used to treat breathing conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and COPD. However, nebulizers are also useful for treating children and adults who struggle to take oral medications.
Portable nebulizers are battery-powered and compact enough to be carried in a bag for regular or emergency use. So called ‘handheld’ nebulizers can be operated hands-free if placed on a table or other flat surface. This makes them ideal for patients with disabilities and chronic conditions that affect mobility. Handheld nebulizers may also be used to administer life saving medications to unresponsive patients.
As with all medical devices, there are many different brands and designs to choose from. To help you find the best handheld nebulizer for your needs, we’ve compiled a top ten review of the highest quality nebulizers on the market.
Best Handheld Nebulizer Review and Benefits
1. Ultrasonic Portable Nebulizer
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ASOMI’s Portable Nebulizer is a popular handheld nebulizer with many positive customer reviews. It has two operational modes. There’s a standard mode for adults and a milder mode for children which emits the atomized particles at a slower speed and lesser volume. The ASOMI nebulizer comes with a standard size and small breathing mask to make it suitable for patients of all ages.
With its automated cleaning function and a shut-off feature that warns a user when their medication is running low, this is a very user friendly device. It’s a great choice for those who haven’t used a portable nebulizer before and want a simple option that’s small enough to be carried in a pocket.
- Ultra-quiet design (<40dB)
- Aerosol particles 4μm or less
- Highly compact (pocket sized)
- Minimal liquid residue
- Can’t USB-charge with batteries inside
- Batteries not included
2. SINORIKO Handheld Mist Compressor Machine
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The SINORIKO handheld nebulizer is designed for habitual use and can be used to administer a wide variety of liquid medications. While it’s shape is less streamlined than some other portable nebulizers, it weighs just 4oz and is less than 7-inches long. Many patients use this device to administer the respiratory drug albuterol which may be needed as much as six times per day.
The nebulizer’s design includes a large heat dissipation area to prevent overheating and maximize power efficiency. Though it does need to be plugged into a socket, it is both compact and easy to use. There is only mode and one switch so this device is ready to medicate in seconds. 70% of its aerosol particles reach the alveoli (respirable fraction) making SINORIKO’s handheld nebulizer one of the most effective around.
- Mask, air tube, connector included
- Extremely easy to use
- Designed for frequent use
- Compact enough to fit in the palm
- No wireless function (plug-in only)
- Small but boxy (wider than some others)
3. UNOSEKS Cool Mist Nebulizer Inhaler
The UNOSEKS Mist Nebulizer has one of the sleekest designs on the market. It is lightweight, compact and highly ergonomic. The device’s specially developed mesh technology turns liquid medications into very fine mists of atomized particles between 1-4μm. The size and speed of atomization ensures maximum absorption of respiratory medications deep into a user’s bronchus and alveolar. This makes the UNOSEKS nebulizer a reliable tool for medical emergencies.
UNSOSEKS has prioritized efficiency and medical integrity, ensuring the nebulizer’s masks are made of high quality PP and minimizing touch points to prevent cross infection. The auto shut-off function switches the device off to warn a user when it needs refilling and/or recharging. As the UNOSEKS has two power supplies, it can be used for hours after its inbuilt battery runs low.
- 2 power supplies
- Minimal liquid residue/high efficiency
- Penetrate deep into bronchus
- High quality PP breathing masks
- Can clog if used frequently
- Outer case is fragile (don’t drop!)
4. BART Mini Handheld Portable Nebulizer
BART’s Mini Handheld Nebulizer is one of the smallest on the market. It’s not much longer than an AA battery and not much wider than a vape pen. It can be slipped into a pocket or bag and even comes with a drawstring pouch. This makes it a good choice for older children who need an alternative to asthma inhalers at home or school. The BART nebulizer is extremely quiet (under 25db) so won’t cause disturbances in any environment.
Unlike some other portable nebulizers which only have one or two modes, BART’s device gives users the choice of three modes. There’s a low, middle and high mode as well as an automated cleaning function. All these modes are operated using just one button but it lights up in different colors to make it clear which mode is activated.
- Three modes to suit all users
- Extremely compact design
- Comes with a carry pouch and 3 masks
- Ultra-quiet technology
- Outer case may chip if dropped
- Smaller fill cup for liquid
5. Mayluck Portable Mesh Nebulizer
The Mayluck Portable Nebulizer uses Vibrating Mesh Technology to transform liquids into 1-5 micrometers of extremely fine particles. This delicate atomized mist penetrates deep into the lungs to clear the airways and restore healthy respiration. Many users administer airway relaxers with a Mayluck nebulizer. It is very efficient at using up all the liquid inside and leaves minimal waste which can be an issue with some steroids.
When liquid residues do get left over, the nebulizer’s handy self-clean function removes them in a minute or two. Users have two modes to pick from, a fast and powerful dose or a smaller dose for children and babies. The device comes with two masks, a mouthpiece, a carry pouch and a USB cable for charging. Though it is a compact product at just 5.9-inches tall, it is heavier than some other handheld nebulizers as it weighs just under 9oz.
- Battery and fill level indicators
- Very quiet operation (25dB)
- Ideal for administering steroids
- Vibrating Mesh Tech for super fine mist
- Small liquid fill cup
- No batteries included
6. YEVLLDOO Mini Asthma Inhaler Nebulizer
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YEVLLDOO’s Mini Asthma Inhaler Nebulizer packs a lot of efficiency into a very compact package. It’s one of the most economical handheld nebulizers so it’s well suited to older people and anybody who experiences breathing issues in their sleep. It’s small enough and quiet enough to be used overnight. Plus, it auto-shuts after 15 minutes of continuous operation so there’s no risk of administering too much medication.
The nebulizer has a relatively large solution cup and turns liquid medications into 2-3 micrometer particles in a matter of minutes. Each atomized cup (8cc) leaves less than 0.1ml of liquid residue behind. This means minimal mess, drips and clogs while operating the YEVLLDOO nebulizer outside the home. The device’s air filter technology is highly efficient. Each cotton air filter can be used for up to three months.
- Good for overnight applications
- Shuts off for safety after 15 mins
- Highly efficient (almost no waste)
- 2 power sources (battery and plug-in)
- Not as quiet as some others
- Breathing masks are a little rigid
7. MGLIFMLY Handheld Nebulizer
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MGLIFMLY’s Handheld Nebulizer uses Vibrating Mesh Technology to filter extremely fine particles through up to 7000 laser drilled holes. As the mesh vibrates the holes at the top of the liquid compartment, it turns them into ultra-fine breathable droplets. It’s an easy, mess free way for respiratory patients to administer everyday and emergency medications.
Even those who don’t have respiratory conditions can use this handheld nebulizer to clear their airways in cold and flu season. When a sore throat or other ailment makes it hard to swallow conventional tablets, this device is an alternative way to deliver oral medications. It comes with a second PVC mask for children and, as it makes virtually no noise, it can be used in schools and other public spaces.
- Extremely quiet when in use
- Vibrating Mesh Tech for fine particles
- Small design (fits in the palm)
- Leakproof despite the vibrations
- Off/on button can be temperamental
- Breathing masks are quite bulky
8. MAYLUCK Portable Nebulizer Machine
MAYLUCK certainly isn’t shy about the superior quality of its handheld nebulizer’s design. It claims to be the only brand to use an eco-friendly LI-POLYMER battery. Most portable nebulizers rely on lithium batteries which derive from non-renewable resources. The device’s impressive leakproof shell not only stops liquids from spilling, it is also corrosion resistant and uniquely shaped to minimize waste.
The Portable Nebulizer Machine delivers aerosolized particles of MMAD 1-5 μm for penetration into the bronchus. As the casing is completely leakproof, it can be used outdoors and even while camping, hiking or cycling in wet weather. The nebulizer’s one button system means it can be used by patients of all ages, including younger children and older people with limited mobility.
- Fast ‘one button’ operation
- Very sturdy leafproof design
- Uses an LI-POLYMER battery
- Corrosion and leak resistant
- Power doesn’t last as long as others
- A little pricier than other devices
9. WEECEKAN Handheld Nebulizer
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WEECEKAN’s Handheld Nebulizer has been praised for its impressive speed and efficiency. Users say it aomizes liquid medications a lot faster than other devices making it perfect for younger children and adults with busy schedules. It has a simple design with a straightforward flip cap for adding liquids. The 2ml cup of oral medication can be fully atomized in under five minutes.
While the nebulizer’s self-clean function is a little time consuming, it automatically shuts down after 20 minutes of operation. So users can add distilled water to the fill cup and leave the device to do its thing. Regular cleaning reduces residues and extends the nebulizer’s life. One big benefit of the WEECEKAN nebulizer is that it comes with a year long quality warranty guarantee.
- Protected by a 1 year warranty
- Atomizes liquids very quickly
- Vibrating Mesh Tech for ultra-fine particles
- Pocket sized for portability
- Self-clean function could be faster
- Batteries not included
10. JUWA Portable Nebulizer Machine
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JUWA’s Portable Nebulizer Machine can be used to ease the symptoms of everything from pharyngitis to rhinitis, bronchitis, asthma, COPD and regular colds and flus. It uses sophisticated self-regulating nebulizing technology to maintain an optimal particle size and absorption rate (MMAD 2.26 – 41.6). The result is a highly efficient atomizer with an aerosolization rate of 70%.
The nebulizer’s breathing masks are manufactured in GMP aseptic conditions to ensure their structural integrity, sterility and medical-grade quality. All its materials are non-toxic so they’re even suitable for animals that are experiencing respiratory difficulties. The ultra-quiet design means this handheld nebulizer is completely portable. It can be used in schools, offices, restaurants, outdoor spaces and at home.
- High quality medical-grade masks
- Very quiet when operating
- 70% particle absorption rate
- Self-regulating tech manages particle size
- Not technically handheld (needs a surface)
- Some say the instructions are confusing
Handheld Nebulizer Buying Guide
Some people use nebulizers habitually throughout the day to ease chronic respiratory conditions. Others own these devices as a precautionary measure just in case their asthma deteriorates or they have an allergic reaction that impairs their breathing. In either case, it’s useful to have a compact, handheld nebulizer because these portable versions can be used anywhere and everywhere. Unlike full-size nebulizers, they fit snugly in a pocket or bag.
Here are some features to consider when shopping for a handheld nebulizer:
Ultrasonic or Compressor
The majority of handheld nebulizers use compressor technology but, increasingly, manufacturers are turning to ultrasonic tech for faster, cleaner atomization. Ultrasonic nebulizers tend to be more expensive than compressor devices but they can reduce delivery time by as much as a third. The fastest compressor devices on the market can atomize a full cup of medication in 7 minutes. The fastest ultrasonic ones can do it in 5 minutes.
The main difference here is speed of delivery rather than quality. So it’s a question of how patient a user is willing to be. In a medical emergency, speed may not be a major concern providing the nebulizer is capable of performing stably and consistently. If you’ve got a busy lifestyle, ultrasonic tech might be worth your time. If you haven’t, it may not.
Most handheld nebulizers come with two power supplies as standard. This reduces the likelihood of a device shutting down mid-treatment, particularly in a medical emergency. It’s common for portable devices to have a plug-in socket AND a rechargeable battery pack or disposable batteries.
Nebulizers with rechargeable power packs are worth the slightly higher retail price because it doesn’t take long to save money on disposable batteries. Plus, if you carry the power cord in your bag or pocket, you can recharge your nebulizer in most environments. It’s also an environmentally friendly option.
All handheld nebulizers are built to be compact and transportable. However, some devices are bulkier than others. It’s not always a question of picking the smallest device because the mini nebulizers tend to have sparse features and little cups. Think carefully about how often you’re likely to use your nebulizer.
If it’s a precautionary medical aid that you hope you won’t ever need to use, a very straightforward and slimline device is enough. If you’re going to be using your nebulizer every day, it may be worth compromising on size for extra features. It’s worth remembering even the biggest handheld nebulizers are not much larger than palm-size.
Ease of Cleaning
Hygiene is extremely important when using a nebulizer whether you’re the only person using it or you’re sharing a device with family members. The mouthpiece, air tube and breathing mask should be easy to sterilize in boiling water or with wipes. For cleanliness, any components that touch the mouth must be cleaned before they are used again.
This is to prevent cross infection and ensure the nebulizer improves (and not worsens) respiratory symptoms. It is imperative for those with respiratory infections. Most handheld nebulizers have a self-cleaning function that uses distilled water to remove any liquid residues and bacteria. This is a very useful feature from day to day but it’s still best to buy a nebulizer that can be dismantled and thoroughly disinfected on a weekly basis.
High quality handheld nebulizers are designed to last for a year or more. However, their removable parts may need to be replaced. This includes breathing masks, the air line and the mouthpiece. A device’s filters need replacing every 3-6 months depending on the manufacturer’s advice.
When shopping for a nebulizer, make sure the product comes with at least one mask (most provide two or three), one air line and one mouthpiece. If possible, do some research to determine how easy it is to order replacement parts. The last thing you want is a medical product that works wonderfully but has limited parts or poor customer service.
Some nebulizers offer warranty guarantees. These products are definitely worth considering especially if their removable parts are also covered.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What does a handheld nebulizer do?
Ans: A nebulizer is a medical device that transforms liquid medications into breathable aerosol particles so they can be inhaled instead of swallowed. It’s a useful delivery method for babies, young children, people with low mobility and respiratory patients who need fast acting airway relaxants.
Q: What is the right way to use a handheld nebulizer?
Ans: Wash your hands before touching the device. Then, connect the air line to the corresponding connector on the nebulizer. Fill the liquid cup with the amount of medication you need to administer. Attach the mouthpiece and/or mask to the free end of the air line. Put the mask over your month. Turn the machine on and breathe slowly through your mouth until all of the medication has been inhaled.
Turn the nebulizer off or, if necessary, set it self-clean mode.
Q: Is a nebulizer the same thing as an asthma inhaler?
Ans: No, though they are similar in some ways. Both nebulizers and asthma inhalers are used to administer medicines in aerosol form. However, nebulizers require a power source such as a battery or electrical socket. Inhalers need no power. Asthma users press down on the aerosol canister to release a burst of medication.
It is not uncommon for asthma patients to swap inhalers for nebulizers if they have trouble operating handheld inhalers (due to mobility issues) or have physical or psychological barriers to using them. Babies and younger children may be prescribed nebulization if they need habitual doses of medication but are too young to self-administer.
Q: What types of liquid medication can be nebulized?
Ans: Some common nebulized medications include albuterol, ipratropium, budesonide and formoterol. These devices are primarily used to administer respiratory medications for conditions such as bronchiectasis, COPD, cystic fibrosis, asthma and severe allergies. However, they may also be used to deliver non-respiratory medications if a doctor recommends nebulization as a better option than oral delivery.
It is important to consult with your doctor before making changes to the way you take medications.
Q: Is it better to have an ultrasonic nebulizer or a compressor nebulizer?
- Uses a piston-powered compressor to push air through liquid and turn it into a breathable mist
- Less expensive than ultrasonic nebulizers but just as effective at treating respiratory conditions
- Compressor nebulizers can be quite noisy
- Uses high-frequency sound vibrations to break up liquids and turn them into a breathable mist
- More likely to operate silently (less disruption when operated outside the home)
- Faster delivery than most compressor nebulizers
- Aerosol particles are evenly sized and tend to be smaller/finer
Q: Is using a mouthpiece or a breathing mask more effective?
Ans: The most effective way to administer nebulized medication is through a mouthpiece. Handheld nebulizers always come with breathing masks – and they can be used by patients of all ages – but they are slightly less effective. If possible, you should use a mouthpiece and save the breathing mask for medical emergencies in which the patient is physically impaired or non-responsive.
Often, children and babies need to use breathing masks because they cannot hold the mouthpiece steady in their mouths.
Q: Can you overdose while using a handheld nebulizer?
Ans: Yes, though it is harder to do so because the liquid container on the device holds a limited volume of medication. Always adhere to your doctor’s advice and any recommendations provided in your medication’s instruction leaflet.
Q: Are there any risks associated with using a handheld nebulizer?
Ans: There are no risks that don’t also exist for standard oral prescriptions. Where there are any risks, they are the same whether you nebulize or swallow the medications. The only difference is an increased risk of cross infection if the device is not cleaned and maintained properly.
In a small number of cases, aerosolized mists may cause irritation of the skin and/or eyes. This can be remedied by using a tight fitting mouthpiece that doesn’t let any mist escape.
This guide to shopping for a handheld nebulizer will help you know what to look for, which features to invest in and how to fit this type of medical device into your life. There are lots of reasons you might want to swap oral medications for nebulized doses – and they don’t all involve respiratory conditions – but you should seek your doctor’s advice before making this change.
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