What Is an Albuterol Inhaler?
An albuterol inhaler is a quick-relief or rescue medication used to decrease asthma symptoms. Albuterol can decrease acute symptoms associated with worsening asthma such as:exercise induced bronchoconstriction or asthma.
How Does an Albuterol Inhaler Work?
An albuterol inhaler is a short-acting beta-agonist that works as a bronchodilator. These medications improve asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscles in the airways that tighten during an asthma attack.
How Is an Albuterol Prescribed?
Albuterol and other beta-agonists can be prescribed in both oral and inhaled forms. However, the inhaled forms are the preferred method for taking beta-agonists.
Inhaled albuterol and other beta-agonists can be dispensed as a:
- Metered dose inhaler
- Solution for nebulization
- A powder-filled capsule that is inhaled using a powder inhaler
Each inhalation or puff in an albuterol inhaler delivers 90 micrograms of medication. You can normally use 2 puffs every 4 hours as needed to relieve asthma symptoms. If you are using an albuterol MDI to prevent exercise induced asthma or bronchoconstriction, the recommended action is 2 puffs 15 to 30 minutes before exercise or physical activity.
Common Albuterol Inhaler and Beta-Agonist Brand Names
Many of the following drugs come in several forms such as an MDI and a solution for nebulization.
- Proventil HFA
- Ventolin HFA
- Proair HFA
- Xopenex HFA
A number of side effects with an albuterol inhaler should be reported to your asthma doctor as soon as possible. These include:
- Allergic reactions like skin rashes or hives
- Chest pain or chest tightness
- Fast or irregular heart rate
- Fever or chills
- High blood pressure
- Visual changes
- Worsening breathing
A number of other side effects may not require medical attention, but you should let your asthma doctor know if they continue. These side effects include:
- Vomiting and feeling sick at your stomach
It is also important to let your doctor know if you take any of the following medications because of possible drug interactions:
- Beta blockers like Atenolol or Toprol
- Diuretics like Lasix
- MAO inhibitor antidepressants like Nardil
What You Need to Know About Albuterol and Other Beta-Agonists
Short-acting albuterol and other beta-agonists should not be used regularly for the control of asthma. People who might benefit from being placed on an inhaled steroid like Flovent or Pulmicort or a combination agent like Advair include those who:
- Awake from cough more than 2 nights per month
- Use a rescue inhaler more than twice per week
- Have asthma symptoms more than twice per week
- Have symptoms that interfere with their daily activities
When Do I Need to Call My Doctor?
In addition to the side effects previously mentioned, it is important to let your doctor know if your symptoms are not resolving appropriately or if you are using a rescue inhaler more frequently.
More information about albuterol can be found in About.com's Drugs A-Z.
Albuterol Inhaler- Other FAQs
- Is Primatene Mist Safe For My Asthma?
- What If I Can't Afford My Asthma Inhaler?
- Is It Safe To Buy An Albuterol Inhaler Online?
MedlinePlus. Accessed: June 15, 2009. Albuterol Inhalation
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: June 15, 2009. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consumer Information. Accessed: June 15, 2009. Asthma: General Information