Why is Your Nebulizer Not Working?


For those with ongoing respiratory conditions, the effectiveness of a nebulizer is essential for comfortable breathing and personal health. There can be more than a few reasons why your device isn’t working. But, you don’t always have to contact a technician when issues arise. It’s important to understand how your nebulizer works so you have a better idea of where problems can occur. With this insight, you can resolve many common issues quickly and easily.

Why Is My Nebulizer Not Working?

What is a Nebulizer?

Nebulizers are drug delivery devices that turn liquid medicine into a mist inhaled into the lungs. Unlike inhalers, which are manual in operation, nebulizers are battery or electrically powered. They come as tabletop units or portable units and use a mouthpiece to deliver vaporized medicine that is easily inhaled.

Most nebulizers have six primary parts:

  • Medicine cup: where you place your medicine
  • Compressor: which converts the medicine into a mist
  • Filter: which helps remove particles in the mist
  • Tubing: delivers medicine to the mouthpiece
  • Mask/and or mouthpiece: that delivers the misted medicine into your lungs

Steps to Maintain Your Nebulizer

One of the best ways to maintain your device’s performance is through regular care. Making sure there isn’t any build-up that clogs any parts of your nebulizer is most important for its effectiveness.

  1. Rinse your nebulizer after every use, removing and washing all parts. Also, let it air dry before putting all the parts back together.
  2. Nebulizers should be more thoroughly disinfected on a weekly basis, washing them in warm, soapy water to eliminate any bacteria and germs. You can also soak your nebulizer in a mixture of vinegar and water for enhanced disinfection.
  3. Regularly changing your device filter can maintain operation and maintain high standards of sanitation. Nebulizer filters should be changed once every 6 months to a year.

Nebulizer Troubleshooting

Although nebulizers are easy to use and simple to maintain, there may occasionally be problems with your device. Here are a few potential problems.

Nebulizer Compressor Not Operational

If the nebulizer compressor is not working, check your power source. Make sure the plug is firmly inserted in the outlet. If you have a portable nebulizer, check the batteries to make sure they have a charge or if they need to be replaced.

Nebulizers rarely have issues with their compressors. Most problems with compressors are power-based problems. If you follow all other guidelines for troubleshooting the nebulizer compressor and it still does not work, you may need to contact the manufacturer.

Clogged Nebulizer Tubing

When you find that you are not receiving the misted medicine in your mouthpiece or mask, and the compressor appears to be working, then there may be a clog in the tubing.

Check the tubing for damage to ensure there are no cracks or tears that may be affecting performance.

To ensure there are no clogs in the tubing, remove the tubing and wash it thoroughly. Residue medicine can crystallize in the tube and cause a blockage.

Longer Than Usual Nebulizer Treatments

If nebulizer treatments suddenly seem to take longer than usual to complete, you should check the tubing for blockages. If you do not clean your nebulizer regularly, partial clogs from the residual medicine from past treatments may allow some of the mist to pass through, but not all, causing treatments to take longer.

You may also want to check the filter. A dirty filter can reduce the performance of your nebulizer, prolonging treatments as the misted medicine takes longer to pass through the dirty filter.

No Mist from Nebulizer

When no misted medicine at all comes from your device, you can go over the entire checklist to determine the issue.

  • Check your power sources to make sure the compressor is working
  • Check for blockages in the tubing
  • Ensure the filter is clean

You can also check for damage to the nebulizer that might be stopping the misted medicine. Look for holes in the medicine cup. If you find damage you can check with the manufacturer for replacement parts or a new device.

Questions for Nebulizer Troubleshooting

Are You Using the Right Accessories?

When you purchase your first nebulizer, you will want to make sure that all of the accessories you use with it are meant for that particular device. Parts may not work with different manufacturers, so it is important that all working parts fit your model.

  • Masks and mouthpieces-you may need to purchase masks and mouthpieces separately for some nebulizers.
  • Filters-filters may come with your nebulizer, but when replacing them, make sure they fit your device.
  • Batteries for portable nebulizers- some portable nebulizers require their own batteries, so battery packs may not be interchangeable between different brand nebulizers.

Are You Using the Right Nebulizer for Your Medication?

Certain misted medications to treat your respiratory illness may require certain types of nebulizers.

Select a device based on the condition being treated. Follow the recommendations from your doctor for nebulizers treating the following:

  • Upper airway treatment
  • Lower airway treatment

There are many different nebulizers so that users can pick one that is right for them. Both children and adults can use nebulizers. If you are helping a child with a respiratory condition, make sure you select a pediatric nebulizer compared to an adult nebulizer.

Does Your Nebulizer Require Annual Servicing?

Once you purchase your device you may think that your own personal maintenance is all that is required to keep it working well. But some nebulizers may require annual servicing from a technician to ensure lasting performance. Check your owner’s manual to see details on extra service required to keep your particular model of nebulizer providing reliable performance for years to come.

Most brands will include information on technician contact, so you arrange for annual servicing.

Where Can I Buy Nebulizers and Replacement Parts?

You can find nebulizers and their replacement parts from most medical supply stores. However, you may find it easier to shop online. The Oxygen Concentrator Supplies Shop offers a wide range of nebulizers and replacement parts. Speak to our knowledgeable staff with help troubleshooting, answering questions, and selecting the best nebulizer to fit your needs.