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A Guide to Albuterol

Jul 27, 2021

Albuterol (also known as ProAir, Ventolin, Proventil) is a prescription inhaler commonly used in adults and children older than 12 years of age to treat or prevent bronchospasm (narrowing of the lungs' airways) in people with asthma or certain types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also be used to prevent exercise-induced asthma.    

If you or someone you know struggles with asthma or COPD, Albuterol may be able to help. Use this guide as a reference for important information about the prescription medication Albuterol, but always consult with your healthcare professional to decide if this drug is right for you. 

Bronchospasm, Asthma, and COPD

A bronchospasm occurs when the bronchial tubes spasm or contract because of irritation, inflammation, or allergic reaction of the airways. It's important to note that people with asthma experience bronchospasms, but not everyone who has bronchospasms has asthma. 

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways that carry air in and out of your lungs. Symptoms can occur every day or only once in a while and can range from mild to severe. 

Asthma triggers are certain things that cause a person's asthma to flare up. Some examples of triggers are:

  • Cold air

  • Tobacco Smoke

  • Outside pollution

  • Mold

  • Pets

  • Certain chemicals

  • Pollen 

  • Exercise

An asthma attack occurs when the symptoms of asthma become more severe. Asthma often begins in childhood but affects people of all ages. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined as a "chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs." A person with COPD may experience difficulty breathing, cough, mucus (sputum) production, and wheezing. COPD can occur when someone has long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate materials, such as cigarette smoke. People with COPD have an increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, and other conditions.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions that make up COPD and often occur together. COPD is a progressive disease, and damage to the lungs from COPD can't be reversed. However, there are treatments available to control symptoms and promote a higher quality of life. 

Complications and Symptoms of Bronchospasm, Asthma, and COPD

All 3 of these diseases affect a person's airway, so they share many of the same symptoms. Complications may include, but are not limited to:

  • Wheezing

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Cough

  • Chest tightness 

  • Fatigue 

  • Frequent respiratory infections (Asthma and COPD)

  • Mucus (sputum) production (COPD)

  • Swelling in legs, ankles, and feet (COPD)

If you are experiencing any of these, you should see your healthcare professional immediately. 

What Is Albuterol, and How Does It Work? 

Albuterol is in a drug class known as bronchodilators. By relaxing the muscles around the airways, Albuterol helps open and widen the airway muscles and allow more air to pass through into the lungs to help a person to breathe more easily.

How Do You Use Albuterol to Treat Bronchospasm, Asthma, and COPD? 

It is essential that you first consult your healthcare provider before starting any new prescription medication. Also, always be sure to carefully follow the recommendations of your health care provider, use the medication as instructed and as per the directions on the prescription label. 

Albuterol comes as a liquid solution to breathe in by mouth using a special jet nebulizer (a machine that turns medication into an inhaled mist) or as powder or aerosol to breathe in by mouth using an inhaler. 

When the inhalation aerosol or powder for oral inhalation is used to treat or prevent symptoms of lung disease, it is usually prescribed to take every 4 to 6 hours as needed. If it's used to avoid breathing difficulty during exercise, the inhaler is usually used 15 to 30 minutes before exercise. The nebulizer solution is commonly used three or four times a day. 

How Long Does it Take for Albuterol to Work?

Most people notice an improvement of symptoms within a few minutes after taking Albuterol. Typically the effects last between four to six hours, sometimes eight hours or longer. It's recommended to carry Albuterol with you if you need to take it on an emergency basis for quick relief of symptoms.

Unless your physician has instructed you to, don't increase the dose or take it more often, even if the effects appear to be wearing off sooner. Seek medical attention immediately, as this can be a sign of declining asthma control hidden by the overuse of Albuterol.

What are the Possible Side Effects of Albuterol?

It is possible to experience side effects when using Albuterol. It is always important to follow dosage requirements as abnormal or fatal side effects may occur if you take too much medication.  

Common side effects when using Albuterol include, but are not limited to:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Cough

  • Throat irritation

  • Muscle, bone, or back pain

  • Nervousness

  • Shaking (tremor)

  • Headache 

  • Dizziness 

There are also severe side effects that may occur. If you experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor immediately:

  • High blood pressure 

  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat

  • Chest pain

  • Allergic reaction: rash, hives, itching, and/or swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs

  • Increased difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Hoarseness

Albuterol may be the solution treatment for you or someone you know who struggles with bronchospasm, asthma, or COPD. At CareCard, we are passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. You can search for an Albuterol coupon here and learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.