How Do I Use Saline in a Nebulizer?

Table salt can be dissolved in distilled water to make saline for use in a nebulizer.
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  • Written By: S. Waddell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2014
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A nebulizer is a device that changes a liquid solution into a vapor or mist. The use of saline in a nebulizer is a safe and effective way to treat breathing difficulties. A prescription medication may be necessary to treat severe breathing problems, though saline — sterile salt water — can often be used to dilute the medicine. In many cases, a saline solution alone will provide immediate relief. Plain water can also be used in a nebulizer with good results.

Using saline in a nebulizer is completely safe and does not have the side effects associated with prescription medications. As a nebulizer spray, it can easily be inhaled through an attached mask or mouthpiece. It goes to the lungs, where it breaks up mucus and makes it easier to be coughed up. It moistens the nasal cavity and relieves excessive coughing. It is the moisture that provides relief, even with only saline in a nebulizer and no medicine.

There are two main types of nebulizers, the compressor type and the ultrasonic type. The ultrasonic type works quicker and more efficiently than the compressor. It has no air compressor, so it is much quieter when it is running. It is also more expensive. A doctor's prescription is necessary to purchase a nebulizer, and your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which one is the better choice for you.


The nebulizer will have a cap in which to put the nebulizer solution. There is a tube, which goes from the nebulizer to a mask or mouthpiece. If you are using the nebulizer on a small child, one with a mask would most likely be a better choice. For children over the age of 2 and for adults, the mouthpiece may be a better choice, because it delivers more moisture directly to the lungs.

Saline solution can be purchased, but many people prefer to make their own. It is easy to do by mixing 1 teaspoon of ordinary table salt or sea salt with 1 quart of distilled water. Regular tap water may be used if distilled water is not available.

The nebulizer must be cleaned and dried well after every use. Using only saline in a nebulizer makes it easier to clean. When using medicines, some of it may stick in the cup. It is important to get all remaining traces of the medicine cleaned from the cup before using the nebulizer again.


Discuss this Article

Post 9

Although I have been on Salbutamol four times a day now for just over a year, it wasn't until I invested a nebuliser, that things really started to improve for me, and though up to now I've only been using sterile water, and sometimes I find it very hard fighting for breath at times, I found it quite comforting to use a saline solution instead. The results are very remarkable indeed.

As anon357561 said earlier, he/she was very happy, as I am now. But, there is a shelf life, as with all medicines. I would advise the saline solution be discarded 48 hours after opening, as the salt content quickly falls, thereby making the effect less potent, also the nebuliser may be impaired.

So, after 48 hours, it's best to make up a fresh batch to keep refrigerated for when you need it most. I still use the ventolin when I'm out, but I find that I'm not using it as much as directed, and try not to rely on the 'saline solution' too much before seeking medical help. It's always best to be safe than sorry.

Post 7

I was always prescribed ventolin and pulmicourt for use with my nebuliser regardless of the medical problem. After a six month cough and struggling to breathe, I changed doctors and was told to just use the saline. It brought up so much mucus but I was clear in less than two days.

Post 6

I tried this and it was effective for asthma.

Post 3

I have been using a nebulizer for about a month. I used the albuterol that my doctor prescribed and it helped quite a bit. However, I used homemade saline (purified bottled water and sea salt) last night (albuterol wasn't helping as much as it had). It made me cough quite a bit and I coughed up a lot of mucus. But then I felt markedly better and could breathe so much better than with the albuterol. I am going to try this again tonight.

Post 2

@indmenifyme - I have a nebulizer too and the article is right, they are really hard to clean. I'm almost sold on this saline idea just for the easy clean-up!

Post 1

I've had asthma almost my whole life and I've never heard of using saline in a nebulizer. It sounds like it would be a great solution though.

I actually do have a portable nebulizer for use at home so I think I'm going to consult with my doctor about this. I need a new prescription for the medicine that I normally use in the nebulizer so I have to pay her a visit soon anyway!

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