Myth Busting: Respiratory infection, "Hot boxing", "nebulization"

This is spun off of another thread where there conversation became… interesting.

How to Treat a Respiratory Tract Infection

Take your animal to the veterinarian for diagnosis. They can perform cultures to isolate the specific bacteria as well as evaluate if it is actually an RI (as opposed to particulate, stuck shed, etc). This is inarguable. There is no at-home remedy for RI.

Two things cure an RI:

  • Time
  • Medication

That’s it.

Hot Boxing

This is exactly what it sounds like. Place the animal in a temporary enclosure that you can increase the heat and humidity on. Humidity helps to dislocate particulates, soften old shed, and dislodge other breathing obstructions including phlegm, mucus, etc.

The primary function of mucus in lungs (yours and a snake’s lungs) is lubrication. Foreign particles become suspended in mucus and are mechanically removed from your lungs (see epithelial cells, cilia, a biology book). If the air is hot and dry the mucus is also hot and dry - and cannot function. Breathing is uncomfortable, inefficient, and removal of undesirable material is inefficient.

Any claims of “getting rid of the mucus” or “drying out the lungs” or “breaking the mucus up” are naive ways of describing these functions. You may even overhear doctors or vets saying this. We’ve referred to it in humans this way for so long that we repeat them over and over. :woman_shrugging:

Nebulization

Nebulizers are very specific medical equipment that are designed to aerosolize medication. The medication is suspended in water in the air that the animal breathes. They are very different than the drug store humidifier.

A normal humidifier heats and/or agitates water to create a mist. Large droplets of water produced by these types of humidifiers are caught by the natural actions of lungs with the majority of any additional additives to the water ending up transported out with the mucus.

This is the difference, put simply, between these items: nebulizers create an extremely fine mist, much more fine than a drug store humidifier. Delivering drugs and medication with a humidifier is extraordinarily inefficient and is not nebulization.

You can rent “human” grade nebulizers from a medical supply company if you want to coordinate with a veterinarian on how to medicate a snake with a nebulizer.

The Myth: Nebulizing Your Snake

As mentioned in the other thread, a long time use of F10 cleaner was to “nebulize” a snake by aerosolizing it with a fogger. You can see Barczyk do it here. This is from 2010.

You can find references to other people discussing this method using a variety of different additional chemicals across the internet dating as far back as 2000. It was certainly used even earlier than that.

Good luck with the internet archaeology. :slight_smile: Even the company’s own website, last I checked, was a broken WordPress installation.

This is not nebulization. F10 Disinfectant is not a medication. It isn’t even considered an antiseptic for use directly on the animal. It is not an antibiotic and delivering it this way would most likely not result in any form of consistent absorption. If you have this at home, and you should if you have reptiles, you can check the safety sheet provided with the product. Do not confuse F10 SC with F10 SCXD.

Conclusion?

Time and medication cure an RI. If this method was “effective” in any way it should attributed to time. Given enough time the normal mechanisms of a snake’s lungs can cure an RI: provided it can survive it. Without any sort of evaluation by a veterinarian and no bacterial cultures collected and completed there is no way of knowing if an RI was even present - in which case a hot and humid box would certainly “cure” whatever the problem was.

Nebulizing your snake is certainly busted.

Hot boxing, or hot and humid temporary enclosures, are safe and reasonable. They can provide a temporary shelter from symptoms of RI and even resolve problems like particulates or stuck shed.

In the reptile hobby many people have “tried and true” methodology that they refuse to depart from. It’s because we’re passionate about our animals and any little thing we can do to help is certainly worth trying. You will undoubtedly find many people that will say they have saved a snake with “F10 nebulization” and may continue to use the method. It is understandable, however, it is not accurate.

4 Likes