What Is Albuterol? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Kara Jones
Albuterol has been used in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory conditions since 1980. Read about its action, how it helps prevent respiratory distress, and possible side effects.

Albuterol To The Rescue

Anyone with asthma will tell you how much they crave being able to breathe normally. To participate in activities without coughing, or to be outside without having to worry about having an attack. Asthma is just one of several chronic respiratory diseases and conditions that have symptoms which can be relieved in minutes by using albuterol. Other names for albuterol include Ventolin and Proventil.

How Does Albuterol Work?

Albuterol is a bronchodilator, which is a medicine designed to relax the bronchial tubes in your lungs, widening them and allowing more air to get in. Albuterol is classified as a short-acting beta-2 agonist, one of the three types of bronchodilators. It works by stimulating little receptors in the lungs that help open up the bronchial tubes so air can move freely.

Asthma is characterized by a tightening of the bronchial tubes when exposed to an allergen (any substance that triggers the beginning of symptoms) or exercise. This constriction of the airways makes it very hard to breathe. Wheezing, mucus production, coughing, and shortness of breath happen almost immediately. Without treatment, the condition can lead to a complete failure of the respiratory system.


Inhale and Breathe!

Almost all people with asthma use some type of short-term rescue medication, and albuterol is the most frequently prescribed of these as it works extremely quickly. It is only available with a prescription and can be given in an inhalation/nebulizer form (this takes 3-5 minutes to begin working) and a tablet or liquid form, which takes up to 30 minutes before it starts to work.

When albuterol is administered by an inhaler or nebulizer, the medication is released into small vaporized particles that are absorbed into the airways. These tiny particles act on the receptor sites in the lungs and start the process of bronchodilation. It is easy to see why people with asthma carry an albuterol inhaler with them everywhere, and why you often find these inhalers placed strategically around the house. Asthma attacks can happen anytime, and when you can't breathe, nothing else matters!


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