The following doctors prescribe breathing treatments: 

  • Allergists/immunologists are internists or pediatricians with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and immune deficiency disorders.
  • Critical care medicine doctors specialize in the diagnosis and management of life threatening conditions.
  • Emergency medicine doctors and pediatric emergency medicine doctors specialize in the rapidly diagnosing and treating acute or sudden illnesses, conditions, injuries, and complications of chronic diseases. 
  • Primary care providers including internists, family practitioners (family medicine), pediatricians, geriatricians, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs). Primary care providers offer comprehensive healthcare services and treat a wide range of illnesses and conditions. 
  • Pulmonologists are internists or pediatricians with specialized training in treating diseases and conditions of the chest, such as pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, or complicated chest infections.

How are breathing treatments given?

Breathing treatments involve inhaling medications using a nebulizer device. A nebulizer converts liquid medication into a mist. The mist is easy to inhale, making it useful for treating infants, children, and others who may have difficulty using respiratory inhalers properly.

Nebulizer breathing treatments take 10 to 30 minutes and generally involve these steps:  

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before assembling a nebulizer breathing treatment.
  2. Place the exact amount of prescribed liquid medication in the nebulizer medicine cup.
  3. Connect the hose from the nebulizer device to the air compressor.
  4. Attach the mouthpiece to the medicine cup. Infants and toddlers may use a mask attached to the nebulizer. If you are seriously ill, a respiratory therapist or nurse may attach the nebulizer to a mask or a breathing tube (endotracheal tube).
  5. Turn on the device and take slow, deep breaths through the mouthpiece until the liquid medication is gone.
  6. Rinse the mouthpiece and medicine cup with warm water and let them air dry.

Will I feel pain with breathing treatments?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to ensure you get the most benefit from your breathing treatment. Shortness of breath and other breathing problems can cause anxiety, which in turn can worsen breathing difficulties. 

Remember that breathing treatments are not painful. Taking deep, relaxed breaths will move the medication deeply into the lungs so you get most benefit from the treatment. Tell your doctor or care team if you are uncomfortable or your breathing is getting worse.

What are the risks and potential complications of breathing treatments?  

Breathing treatments are generally safe unless you use them more often than recommended. Rarely, a serious allergic reaction can occur. Symptoms include a rash, hives, difficulty breathing, or chest tightness. Call your doctor or 911 if you have these symptoms.

Medications for breathing treatments have some potential side effects. Talk to your doctor if you have these or other side effects from your breathing treatment:

  • Decreased sense of taste or smell or bad taste in the mouth
  • Dry, irritated throat or mouth and coughing
  • Headache
  • Jitteriness or trembling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Palpitations 
  • Restlessness or anxiety

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of some complications and side effects of breathing treatments by following your treatment plan and: 

  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant 
  • Keeping all scheduled appointments
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as no improvement or increase in breathing difficulty, anxiety, or palpitations
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies

How do I prepare for my breathing treatments?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. It is essential that you understand your diagnosis and how to perform your breathing treatments before you leave the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office.