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How Nebulisers Help Those Gasping For Breath

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Few sensations are as terrifying as not being able to get enough air into your lungs.  The tightening of the chest, the hunger for air and the creeping onslaught of panic as you try to fill your lungs is one of the most frightening experiences imaginable.

Imagine having to live with that sensation almost every day.

Tragically, shortness of breath is a regular occurrence for those who suffer from industrial diseases which affect the respiratory system.  The NHS provides access to nebulisers for patients, but like many healthcare facilities, demand is beginning to outstrip supply.

How nebulisers can help alleviate symptoms of respiratory disease

A nebuliser is a device that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist, allowing a patient to inhale their drugs rather than swallow them.  Medication is breathed in through a mouthpiece or mask.  It allows health professionals to administer higher quantities of medication if the patient is in distress through being unable to breathe[1].  Typically, a nebuliser is used in treating asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory disorders and diseases, including asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Types of nebulisers

There are many varieties of nebulisers available.   Nebulisers can be driven by compressed gas (jet nebuliser) or by an ultrasonically vibrating crystal (ultrasonic nebuliser).  Jet nebulisers can lead to much of the medication administered being lost on expiration. Therefore, ultrasonic nebulisers are becoming more common[2].  They are also quieter and more compact, making them easier to use in the patient’s home[3].

Nebulisers and palliative care

End of life care is increasingly becoming a priority for healthcare providers[4].  For those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases caused by occupational exposure to chemicals and dust, end of life care can be extremely challenging for families and healthcare providers.  Death tends to occur after a prolonged functional decline, exhausting and painful symptoms, emotional suffering and social isolation.  According to research, the quality of life of COPD patients appears to be at least as poor, and indeed may be worse than that of patients with lung cancer[5].

Obtaining a nebuliser

For patients who wish to spend their final days at home, surrounded by loved ones, it is important to have access to a nebuliser to help relieve breathlessness quickly. 

You can purchase a nebuliser. However, the model you buy may be different from the one used in hospitals.  Your GP cannot simply give you a nebuliser for use at home but your hospital consultant may be able to provide one if they believe it will be beneficial to you[6].

If you buy a nebuliser, be sure to consult with your specialist about whether it is the right type for your condition.  You will need to have the medication prescribed by your GP.

Also, be sure to ask for a demonstration on how to use, clean and care for your nebuliser.

Could you obtain compensation for exposure to industrial chemicals?

The more comfort that can be provided to those suffering from respiratory diseases brought on by exposure to industrial chemicals or dust, the better.  Often end of life treatment requires additional funds, which is where making a claim for compensation can relieve some of the financial pressure.

At IBB, our industrial diseases team has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to seek compensation.  Our fully qualified solicitors have years of experience and deal with every case in a sensitive, caring manner.

To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at or fill in our contact form.  Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.





[5] How well do we care for patients with end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? A comparison of palliative care and quality of life in COPD and lung cancer.  Gore JM, Brophy CJ, Greenstone MA Thorax. 2000 Dec; 55(12):1000-6.


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