Nebulisers and inhalers – what are the differences?


There is a wide range of different nebulisers and inhalers on the market which means it is sometimes hard for those affected to see the wood for the trees.

Here is a brief guide to help you better classify these inhalation devices.

Inhalers and nebulisers are used for two different types of inhalation.

Inhalers are used for dry inhalation. With this type of inhalation, the active ingredient is inhaled as a powder/air mixture.

The advantage of this type of inhalation is that the administered dose is always determined very accurately.

The disadvantage of inhalers is that you need to coordinate your inhalation precisely with when the puffs are triggered to ensure the correct application. That is why inhalers are less suitable for babies and young children.

Dry inhalation is mostly used during an asthma treatment for administering bronchodilating and anti-inflammatory active ingredients.

Emergency relief medications for asthma and other chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, often used during an asthma attack, also come in inhalers.

Nebulisers are used for wet nebulisation. The inhalable aerosol can be produced using a variety of techniques.

Depending on the technology, a distinction is made between ultrasonic, compressed air (or compressor) or mesh nebulisers. The active ingredient is inhaled in tiny droplets. The size of the droplets can be accurately determined to optimally reach either the upper, middle or lower respiratory tract.

Therefore, nebulisers are suitable for a wide range of respiratory tract diseases.

It is advantageous that nebulisers do not require any special breathing technique, as they also can be inhaled using a mask. That is why nebulisers are particularly suitable for young children and babies.

The disadvantage of this method is that it takes a lot longer for the same amount of active ingredient to be administered.


Almond, S. How do children with asthma inhale properly? Retrieved from

Richtig Inhalieren (2018). Types of inhalers with explanation of how it works. Retrieved from