Inhaled Quick-Relief Medicines for Asthma
About This Medicine
Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.
The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
What are some examples?
Here are some examples of inhaled quick-relief medicines. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.
- albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
- levalbuterol (Xopenex)
This is not a complete list of these medicines.
Why are inhaled quick-relief medicines for asthma used?
Inhaled quick-relief medicines are used to help you breathe during an asthma attack. They may also be used before exercise to prevent asthma symptoms. And they may be used to treat people who have only mild asthma symptoms now and then. (This is called intermittent asthma.)
How do they work?
Inhaled quick-relief medicines relax the muscles lining the airways that carry air to the lungs. This helps increase airflow. These medicines work within 5 to 15 minutes.
What about side effects?
You may get anxious or have tremors (for example, you may have unsteady, shaky hands) when you use inhaled quick-relief medicines. You may also have a rapid heartbeat or palpitations.
General information about side effects
All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.
But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.
If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
What are some cautions about inhaled quick-relief medicines for asthma?
It's possible to overuse quick-relief medicines for asthma. You may be using too much of your quick-relief medicines if you are using them on more than 2 days a week for symptoms of an asthma attack (except before exercise). Talk to your doctor if you are using them this often. It may mean that your asthma symptoms and inflammation are not well controlled.
General cautions for all medicines
- Allergic reactions.
- All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
- Drug interactions.
- Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
- Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
- Other health problems.
- Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine