Should hospital nebuliser masks be single-use items? What do you think?
It is important that nebuliser chambers are clean and dry before use. Medication is delivered directly to the lungs and could, if contaminated, be a source of infection. To ensure appropriate hygiene nebulisers are either single use, denoted by the symbol, and disposed of after each administration, or single-patient use, enabling nebulisers to be washed and dried in between treatments. It is important that single-use devices are not re-used as the durability of the product often diminishes after one use, resulting in poor performance (and therefore potentially poor drug delivery).
Cost consideration is an issue: single-use nebulisers, although often cheaper per item, can be more costly per inpatient episode. In A&E it may be cheaper to use single-use equipment, whereas in ward areas single-patient nebulisers may be a more cost-effective choice. Nursing staff time can be an additional resource consideration if regular washing is needed. However, if patients are expected to continue nebulised therapy after discharge their stay in hospital can be an ideal opportunity to teach them correct use, and delegating responsibility for cleaning to them supports self-management and independence.
Carol Kelly is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University, Lancashire.