Asthma Mom’s Rules for Nebulizers and Little Kids

(Excuse the photo quality. This was pre-digital days.)

My daughter started using a nebulizer right after she turned 2, when the doctor diagnosed her asthma. As a 25 year-old mom with no breathing problems myself, I had no idea what I was doing back then.


The nurse at the pediatrician’s office showed me how to administer nebulizer treatments to my frightened, struggling toddler by holding her against my lap and trapping her left arm behind my back. Simultaneously, I had to hold her head, her other arm, and the nebulizer mask on her face still while she screamed. Can you picture it, the way I’ve described? No? I’m not surprised; it felt like a gymnastics routine or a yoga position at the advanced level, and it made AG miserable.

But I thought, well okay. This is the procedure. This is how you do things, clearly.

We were always flying blind with the asthma stuff in those early days, but eventually my kid and I slowly, eventually felt our way through a better system. Because the method necessary for a nurse in a busy doctor’s office did not make as much sense at home, where I had plenty of time and space to help her through it. (Have I mentioned before, ever, what I total amateur I was as a mom in general and an Asthma Mom in particular?)

These became my rules. They transformed the nebulizer from a scary, smoky machine into a regular, normal routine when my daughter was young.

1. Flip the nebulizer switch before you put the mask on. The sound of the motor, the misty medicine, the bizarre feeling of a face mask; all at once, these make for a terrifying experience for little kids.

2. In fact, let your kid put the mask on herself if she wants to. This gives her some control over the process.

3. Use the TV for distraction. Toddlers never stay still, anyway, and nebulizer treatments are boring. My daughter’s serious Elmo obsession always helped.

4. Use an extra mask to give your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal a “treatment” at the same time. Then it feels like a game.

5. When I bought new masks, I let my kids use the old ones for dress-up, but only under my supervision or when they were old enough for the masks not to pose a safety risk. You know, so they could play Fire Rescue with pink boots and plastic hats. Obviously.

Got any tips that worked for your kids? Share ‘em below.

Thanks, Sarah, for inspiring this post with your comment about children, medical issues, and a sense of control.