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Wear The Gown: Asthma, nebulizers, and spread of coronavirus

Experts say nebulizers should be out as they could contribute to coronavirus spread, and metered dose inhalers should be in.

SAN ANTONIO — Asthma and the coronavirus don't mix well because both have an impact on your lungs. A device called a nebulizer which is frequently used by asthma patients could cause a coronavirus spread, so physicians have a solution.

"A nebulizer is a treatment that we give mainly for individuals who have breathing problems such as asthma or cystic fibrosis or other pulmonary diseases," said Dr. Mandie Svatek, a pediatric hospitalist with University Health System and an Associate Professor of Pediatric Medicine with UT Health San Antonio. She says that nebulizer can help spread the coronavirus. Dr. Svatek, told us, "What a nebulized substance is is a liquid that becomes this aerosolized substance."

Even if someone has the coronavirus and they even just breathe in a room, that virus can linger in the air for up to three hours. That's why it is so important to keep any treatment particles from any therapy device out of the air. So what is another option? 

The best way to go about that is to use a metered dose inhaler with spacer and a facemask. Dr. Svatek added, "As they breathe in and out, as long as you have that tight seal, they should be able to receive the medicine just as equal as if they were receiving it via a nebulizer."

But just how effective is it? Dr. Svatek said, "The metered dose inhaler is just as effective if you use it with a spacer and you give the appropriate teaching."

But even if used properly don't forget the rest of your coronavirus practices. Dr. Svatek told us, "We don't know what our population is when you are out there, or you are in the school, and that's why I first and foremost wearing a face mask and keeping that 6 feet of separation is most important."

"Hospitals have decided that this is a risk factor that if you have a COVID positive patient and you are using nebulizer therapy you can spread that virus into the air and transmit it to other individuals. Normally what we would have is most kids can have a spacer and they have that inhaler and they are able to put it on their mouth and breathe in and out nice and easy," said Dr. Svatek. 

She also told us, "When you have a child that really can’t cooperate very well, so that could be a young child or a child with special needs, the easiest way and we found that it works just as well is to get the spacer on and that forms a nice tight seal on their face so you don’t have to worry about them controlling their breathing."

There are ways to be educated to make sure you are using the device the correct way. Dr. Svatek added, "University Health System holds education classes and there are also online resources that children and parents can use and they can go back to their position and get that training and education. It’s repeated use and repeated education, but there are many sources out there available so that family can get that comfort in order to use it appropriately."