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portable nebulizer in a purse

Pros and Cons of Portable Nebulizers for Asthma

We have come a very long way from early nebulizers. The very first nebulizer was invented in 1864 in Germany and it was a steam-driven and turned the liquid medication into a vapor that was inhaled.

The first electrical nebulizer was invented in 1930. At that time the most common medication that was used for asthma was a form of epinephrine which helped reverse bronchoconstriction and eased breathing. This nebulizer turned the epinephrine into vapor via a small electrical compressor. These nebulizers were very expensive for the time, so people continued to use smaller handheld atomizers that you had to squeeze similar to old fashioned perfume bottles for many years.

A lot has changed about nebulizers

I guess you could say those atomizers were the very first portable nebulizers on the market. What were once considered cutting edge are now ancient, as to be expected. I remember my first home nebulizer in the 1980s. It was huge and bulky, not to mention LOUD, and took what seemed like forever to nebulize albuterol, which had to be measured from a dropper and mixed with saline from an aerosol bottle.

In more recent years, the small portable nebulizers have gained popularity and therefore more manufacturers have started making them. But there are some pros and cons when it comes to present-day portable nebulizers. Here are some things to consider.

Pros of portable nebulizers for asthma


The biggest pro of a portable nebulizer is that it is very convenient. They are lightweight and can easily fit in a purse. Some are so small they can fit in your pocket! This makes travel extremely easy due to its size.

Cost of medication

The liquid medication for nebulizers (such as albuterol, ipratropium bromide, levalbuterol, and budesonide) is overall significantly cheaper than the exact same medication in inhaler form. 

It’s inconspicuous

My favorite feature of a portable nebulizer is that it is very quiet. Some are even completely silent! These small nebs often times run on batteries making them even more convenient. Most of the time they have an adaptor that can be purchased so you can plug them into the wall or into your car.

Cons of portable nebulizers for asthma

Insurance coverage

Portable handheld nebulizers are not usually covered by insurances. They can be quite expensive to pay for out of pocket. If you have either an FSA or HSA account you can use that to pay for it. That is how I purchased mine a few years ago. 


Some take longer to nebulize medications than a larger traditional unit. This is due to the mechanism/motor which isn’t as powerful as the regular tabletop nebulizers.

Medicine limitations

Most of them can also only nebulize albuterol. This means no inhaled steroids, as it can gunk up the mesh that vibrates to make the mist you inhale.

Will a portable nebulizer make a difference for you?

Portable nebulizers have their pros and cons. Each person will have to weigh both the good and bad to see if it is worth it to have one in their asthma toolbox. 

For me, having a portable nebulizer that is completely silent has been an absolute game-changer. There have been times when I have not been at home and my asthma has flared very badly, so much that I didn’t have enough strength to use my rescue inhaler. I like having my little “baby neb” (as I like to call it) in my bag for whenever I need it. It brings me a lot of comfort. I still have a regular tabletop nebulizer for home use, which is considerably smaller than my childhood one.

Do you use a portable nebulizer for asthma? If so, how do you like it? If not, are you considering using one? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • VioletVixen
    4 months ago

    What does one cost in general and where can I purchase one….thank you…

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi again, VioletVixen, and thanks for this question as well. Prices for these type nebulizers can vary and will depend on the brand, model, etc. In many instances, insurance can help to defray the cost for an individual. What has your experience been? Leon (site moderator)

  • Elizabeth 1991
    4 months ago

    I have an devibliss travler one its great

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Elizabeth1991 and thanks for joining in this conversation about portable nebulizers. Glad to hear you are pleased with your brand device. We appreciate your input here. Leon (site moderator)

  • Debbiekayj55
    4 months ago

    Thank you for this article. I purchased a portable unit and I LOVE IT I was embarrassed to use the ‘jack hammer’ I have at work. Now I can sit quietly at my desk and do a treatment. Also, nothing is worse than needing a treatment at night. I woke my entire family. Now WHISPER QUIET

    I had an ER Dr tell me they were not as good. Don’t use it
    Next visit to my pulmonologist I put a vial in and turned it on. He gave it the thumbs up. He thinks it is perfect!

    Now I have my portable in my purse at all times. For some reason my rescue inhaler does not clear as well. Having both options helps me stay in control.

  • iam2nd
    4 months ago

    I am spoiled by my Omron Micro-Air! It’s 5-1/2H x 1-1/2W x 1-3/4″D. Have had it for a few years now and have replaced the micromesh screen only once in all this time. I use albuterol, ipratropium bromide, and budesonide in it – just be sure to clean it by nebulizing distilled water for a minute or two every so many uses – I can tell by the diminishing amount of mist it produces as to whether it is starting to clog. It does use batteries! Depending on how often you need to use the unit, you might want to opt for a plug-in, or rechargeable charging option, 2 – AA batteries last me a couple weeks with once daily usage. Might seem a little pricey but all things considered, I can’t say enough good things – does the job well for me, convenient to take anywhere, can find parts fairly easily – and last but not least – IT’S SILENT! (YAY!)

    As someone with asthma and COPD I have to say that I would NEVER be without my rescue inhaler on purpose. I DO NOT rely on a nebulizer in a crisis, but for certain therapies prescribed for me, it is the only way, and a huge benefit.

  • iam2nd
    4 months ago

    p.s. Thought I should mention I do not use budesonide all the time so if it were something everyday maybe my unit would clog a bit more often…

  • sashabear
    4 months ago

    OMG, a portable neb has CHANGED my life. I used to get anxious ever leaving the house for long, since I did not have my machine with me. Now, I can be gone all day, and because I do not get anxious about not having the meds, I do not need them as often. Interesting connection between asthma and anxiety.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi sashabear, and thanks for joining in the response to this article by our own Theresa Cannizzaro. I’m glad to hear you have having such success using a portable nebulizer system. You must feel as good as you said (above). Keep up the good work! Leon (site moderator)

  • jennynenny
    4 months ago

    I’m really surprised that more people don’t mention the Flyp nebulizer. It has been a COMPLETE game changer for me. I travel a lot, and am constantly on -the-go in my daily life. The Flyp is noiseless, charges with USB and dispenses medication in about 6 minutes. I sometimes use it instead of my inhaler because it is so effective. I never use my traditional nebulizer at home anymore because the Flyp is so wonderful. It was pricey, yes, but well worth the investment. I tell everyone about it because I wish more people knew about it. I was without a nebulizer for a while and then I just had a home unit. The Flyp is incredibly small and discreet, as well.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi jennynenny and thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this type nebulizer. Now that you’ve mentioned this particular type, perhaps others who are familiar with it will also chime in. Glad to hear this works so well for you! Thanks for your input. Leon (site moderator)

  • susanclaire
    5 months ago

    I have a Phillips innospire go rechargeable portable nebulizer.
    It’s very small and lightweight so I can carry it in my bag. It’s silent and stops on a dime if I need to stop to talk with someone.
    I nebulize cromolyn sodium 4 times a day with it. I rinse the mesh out after every use with a water bottle in my bag. It doesn’t take much and I carry a couple knapkins to pour the rinse water into in case I don’t have somewhere to dump it.
    It is much, much faster than my home nebulizer which is also an innospire but not portable.
    The go is the only one I use now, it has changed my life.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi susanclaire, and thanks for joining in the conversation here responding to Theresa’s article. We appreciate you sharing the success you’ve enjoyed using this particular portable nebulizer. To change your life for the better – that is an outstanding endorsement. I’m glad to hear you’re do so well with it. Keep up the good work! Leon (site moderator)

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