Nurses General Nursing


Hello all

I ahve a question that maybe you guys can help me with. What is the difference between compressed air (that comes from a nebulizer) and oxygen treatments are given in a hospital? My mother is a severe asthmatic and when she is taken to the hospital and given oxygen her asthma clears up alot quicker than using her nebulizer. Just curious to know what the difference is.. Thanks :confused:


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

There maybe two differences. One like you mention is the Oxygen. They other might be the medications the doctor orders to be added.

neneRN, BSN, RN

642 Posts

Specializes in Emergency, Trauma.

Most likely, she's also given IV Solumedrol as well- does wonders.

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,064 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Nebulizer is just room air (which is 21% Oxygen, 69% other gases) pushed by a compressor fan quickly which makes the medicine placed into nebulizer unit turn into droplet particles due to vibration from fast air passage in unit. --you get 21% O2 .

Nasal Canula's can deliver much higher flow rates"

Flow Rate / % of Oxygen

1 Liter-24%

2 Liter-28%

3 Liter-32%

4 Liter-36%

5 Liter-40%

Nasel Cannula not used above 6 L

During an acute Asthma flare, airwys constrict severely with Some episodes resulting in hypoxea, so supplemental Oxygen helpful. Mainstay is bronchodilators: Albuterol, Atrovent and steroids: IV solumedrol. If hypoxea is a re-ocurring problem, Mom might need small portable O2 tank at home in case of emergency's. Most insurance won't pay for prn useage, but a small E tank can usually be rented for $35.00/month + cost of refill when needed---Sometimes just having this in the home brings piece of mind.


Asthma and Kids-Ed's Asthma track:

Managing Exacerbations of Asthma


Other helpful Pulmonary info. I came across and thought might be useful to others...

Info on Home O2 setups:

Oxygen concentrators concentrate oxygen from the air and deliver it to the patient. This is not portable and requires electricity to work. Portable E tanks are also delivered for transport and may be used for backup in case of power failure. Oxygen concentrators are often used for individuals who are on oxygen only at night but can be used 24 hours per day.

Liquid oxygen systems consist of a large silver main tank and one or two portable units. The portable units are used as needed for travel outside of the home. When they are empty, they can be refilled from the large tank. Liquid oxygen will evaporate if not used frequently and Needs to be kept cooled. to prevent combustion.


Chart re Oxygen administed from a tank/liquid system-- liter flow and time tank empty

Oxygen Therapy Protocol

Estimated FIO2 with various oxygen delivery systems

Oxygen Therapy by Barry Make, M.D.

National Jewish Medical and Research Center

Transtracheal Oxygen (TTO):

Understanding Transtracheal Oxygen Delivery

Color Picture of woman with TTO system

Home Oxygen Therapy for children being cared for in the community

Evidence-Based Guidelines for Weaning and Discontinuing Ventilatory Support


245 Posts

The nebulizer your mom uses at home compresses room air. The hospital likely administers compressed OXYGEN mixed with room air--so your mom gets a higher % of oxygen per breath. And like neneRN said above, the hospital likely administers IV Solu-Medrol (dexamethasone).

I've had asthma since I was four, and although I don't go to the hospital often, the usual drill if I do go is IV Solu-Medrol, and IM epinephrine, followed by two or three nebulizers. If your mom is having to go to the emergency room on a regular basis (which is both time-consuming and expensive), she should schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist to review her asthma medications. She's not managing her asthma effectively if she's in the ER more than twice a year. I take Singulair, which is a non-steroidal asthma pill, along with Flovent, a steroidal asthma inhaler, and albuterol inhaler and/or nebulizer mist PRN. I also use a peak flow meter and keep track of the readings.

***NRSKarenRN posted her very comprehensive response while I was writing this...I didn't mean to repeat her very good explanation of compressed room air vs. compressed oxygen.***


96 Posts

Thank you so much for all the information. I will be sure and pass this information on to my mother. You have been very helpful!!!

This topic is now closed to further replies.

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X