Inhaled Bronchodilators Patient Information

What are Inhaled Bronchodilators?

Inhaled bronchodilators are medication which are inhaled into the lungs. They relax the muscles of the air passages and cause them to open up. This makes it easier to get air in and out of the lungs.

Inhaled bronchodilators provide only temporary relief of symptoms. They do not treat inflammation, which may be the cause of symptoms in some people.

What are some example of Inhaled Bronchodilators?


Generic name  Trade Name 
Albuterol Proventil, Ventolin
Pirbuterol Maxair
Metaproterenol Alupent, Metaprel
Terbutaline Brethaire, Brethine
Bitolterol Tornalate

When should your inhaler be used?

  1. Use your inhaler as prescribed by your physician.
    It may be prescribed on an as needed basis or on a regular schedule. As a rule, your inhaler should be used no more than two inhalations every four hours, unless prescribed otherwise by your physician.
  2. If indicated, your physician may advise you to use your inhaler prior to exercise or activities that cause you to become short of breath. The inhaler should be used 20 minutes before the activity to allow time for it to work.
  3. Never double the doses of your medication. If you miss a dose, and remember within an hour, take the dose at that time and then resume your regular schedule. If you do not remember until several hours later, eliminate that dose and resume your regular schedule.
  4. Do not stop this medication or alter your prescribed dose without consulting your physician.

Are there any side effects from these medications?

Some people experience a fast heartbeat, nervousness, shakiness, nausea, and/or dizziness.

Consult your physician if:

  1. You develop chest discomfort.
  2. You are having more difficulty breathing after using this medication.
  3. You are not obtaining adequate relief from the use of this medication. Specifically, if two puffs every four hours fails to relieve symptoms, it is time to contact your physician. 
  4. You are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant.
  5. You develop any symptoms that concern you.

Specific Instructions:

Wait at least 1-2 minutes before taking a second inhalation. You may get more benefit by waiting 10-15 minutes.

When is it time to refill my prescription?

To give you an indication of how full your inhaler is, you can do the following:

  1. Remove the metal canister from the plastic holder.
  2. Drop the metal canister into a clean bowl of water.
  3. When full, it sinks to the bottom.
  4. As it empties, it floats closer to the top.