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Nelson-type inhaler, London, England, 1870-1901

Inhalers such as this one were used to treat chest infections and diseases by inhalation. A wide range of designs were available and the Nelson type was one of the most popular and enduring – still commonly used well into the twentieth century. Widely available, they could be purchased from most local chemists. The directions for use state: “For the inhalation of the vapours of Hot Water the water should be Boiling and the Inhaler not more than half filled. When infusions are required the ingredients should be placed in the Inhaler and Boiling Water poured upon them. Volatile and other liquids should be added to the Boiling Water.” The patient inhales the steam directly as it emerges from the glass funnel. This type of inhaler was invented by Dr Nelson between 1861 and 1865.

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    Glossary: inhalation

    The drawing of air or other substances into the lungs

    Glossary: inhaler

    A device for breathing in a drug in order to deliver it to the airways or lungs.