1930s: Asthma Nefrin and the Devilbiss Nebulizer x
One of the cheaper options for asthmatics during the 1930s was to purchase a DeVilbiss Glass Nebulizer No 40 and use it to inhale epinephrine or another solution. It came with a rubber bulb syringe.
Epinephrine (Asthma Nephrine was a brand name) was removed from the glass vial by using a bulb syringe dropper. Two to three drops were placed into the nebulizer, or as instructed by a physician.
The directions, per the package insert, for using the inhaler are as follows:
"This Nebulizer is especially designed for use with 1:1000 Epinephrine solution prescribed in the treatment for asthma. It produces a vapor free from drops that can be inhaled into the air passages. Also available for water, oil, or glycerine base solutions where the treatment requires a vapour instead of a spray...
"Grasp the bulb firmly using the fingers against the palm of the hand, rather than two or three fingers against the thumb. Keeping the mouth wide open, place throat tube (A) just inside the teeth and direct it toward the back of the throat. Inhale deeply while compressing the bulb.
Directions and box for the DeVilbiss Glass Nebulizer Number 40
"If less volume is required cover the vent hold (B) with a finger or the stopper. After using nebulzer, always replace both stoppers to prevent any possible entry of dust or dirt."
The instructions recommended washing the nebulizer with a water solution with vinegar in it. This was the same instructions I was given for my plastic nebulizer in 1985, although the new recommendation is just to use soap and water.
Epinephrine solution (Epinephrine Chloride, Asthma Nefrin) was a nice option until 1972 when the FDA removed the solution from the market due to a scare that the medicine was linked to asthma related deaths.
However, the FDA also noted that there was no specific evidence linking asthma nefrin with asthma deaths.
The Devilbiss Nebulizer remained on the market until the 1950s when the modern inhaler was invented.