Generic Name: albuterol, Oral tablet

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SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for albuterol

Oral tablet
1

Albuterol comes in many forms, including inhalant, nebulizer solution, oral syrup, oral tablet, and oral extended-release tablet.

2

Albuterol is a quick-relief drug that relaxes your breathing passages. It may relieve breathing difficulty in people with respiratory disease, such as asthma.

3

Some people may use albuterol only occasionally when they’re having symptoms. Others need to use it on a regular schedule. Your doctor will help you decide how often you should take albuterol.

4

Side effects are mostly temporary. They may include increased heart rate and shakiness.

5

Use as prescribed. If you feel like you need to use your albuterol more frequently, this may be a sign that your breathing problem is getting worse. Tell your doctor, as he may decide to prescribe a different medication.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

After your dose

Immediately after using albuterol, you may have a faster heart rate and feel shaky for a few minutes.

May cause allergic reaction

If you experience hives or worsened breathing, call a doctor right away.

Drug Features

Albuterol is a prescription medication. It’s available as an inhalant, nebulizer solution, oral syrup, oral tablet, and oral extended-release tablet. An intravenous form of this drug is only used in healthcare facilities.

If you’re using albuterol to treat asthma. You also may be taking a corticosteroid, such as fluticasone or budesonide, to control swelling of your airways related to your asthma. You should only use albuterol as a quick-relief medication. Albuterol is very fast acting.

Why It's Used

Albuterol is used to treat bronchospasm in people with asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.

More Details

How It Works

Albuterol is a bronchodilator. It causes your airways to relax and open up for better breathing. It works well at recommended doses and has few side effects.

Why It's Used

Albuterol is used to treat bronchospasm in people with asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It’s also used to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm.

Albuterol is a quick-relief drug and helps relax your breathing passages. It can make breathing easier if you have a respiratory disease, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.

It also relaxes your breathing passages to prevent bronchospasm related to exercise. Bronchospasm occurs when muscles in your airways contract suddenly. It can occur when you inhale air that is colder or drier than the air that’s already inside your lungs. Bronchospasm makes breathing difficult and may cause wheezing or coughing.

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albuterol Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with albuterol include:

  • shakiness, tremor

  • racing heart

  • dry mouth

  • excitement, especially in children or teenagers

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • chest pain

  • high blood pressure. Symptoms don’t often occur. When they do, they can include:

    • headache
    • dizziness
    • nose bleed
  • allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:

    • increased wheezing
    • itching
    • hives
  • hypokalemia (lowered potassium level). Symptoms may include:

    • extreme tiredness
    • extreme weakness  
    • slowed heart rate
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Albuterol doesn’t cause drowsiness.

Albuterol has predictable side effects after you take a dose. You may experience an increased heart rate, restlessness, and shakiness for a few minutes after taking albuterol. If these side effects don’t go away after a few hours, call your doctor or pharmacist.

Most albuterol side effects are temporary. If your side effects last more than a few minutes, call your doctor.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

albuterol May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Albuterol may interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you’re taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

Heart and blood pressure drugs

beta blockers:

  • propranolol
  • atenolol
  • metoprolol

Sympathomimetics

These stimulants mimic the effects of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. These drugs include:

  • decongestants, such as:
    • pseudoephedrine
    • ephedrine (in many over-the-counter diet pills)
    • phenylephrine (sold as an over the counter decongestant)
  • atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • the antibiotic linezolid (Zyvox)
  • the intravenous antibiotic tedizolid (Sivextro)

Diuretics

Albuterol may take potassium out of your body. Diuretics may also reduce potassium levels. Combining albuterol with these drugs could lead to a potassium deficiency:

  • furosemide (Lasix)
  • hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ)

Other Drugs

Other drugs that interact with albuterol include drugs that affect some of the same chemicals in the body that albuterol does. These include:

  • amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and other antidepressants
  • phenelzine (Nardil)
  • selegiline (Emsam)
  • antidepressants, such as phenelzine (Nardil)

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

People with kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, your body may have trouble keeping potassium levels constant. This can lead to a slowed heart rate or fatigue. Albuterol may further reduce potassium levels, so talk to your doctor before using it.

People with chronic or uncontrolled asthma

If your asthma isn’t well controlled or you have chronic asthma, you may need additional medication. Your doctor may prescribe another drug, such as a steroid inhalant. Albuterol is a quick-relief drug that’s used to control an immediate asthma attack.

People with cardiovascular conditions

If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, or a heart rhythm problem, albuterol could make it worse. Talk to your doctor before using the drug.

People with diabetes

Albuterol can increase your blood glucose. If you have diabetes and begin using albuterol, tell your doctor if your blood glucose level increases. If you have diabetes, your doctor should know that you’re taking albuterol. Your diabetes treatment plan may need to be adjusted.

People with glaucoma

If you have glaucoma, taking albuterol may increase the pressure in your eyes. Have regular eye exams, and tell your eye doctor you’re taking albuterol.

People with thyroid problems

The thyroid is a gland in your body that affects your hormones. Albuterol may make your thyroid gland more active, especially if you already have thyroid problems. Ask your doctor if you should have your hormone levels checked while taking albuterol.

People with seizures

If you have a history of seizures, albuterol may make you more likely to have seizures again. Make sure your doctor knows if you have a history of seizures.

Pregnant women

Albuterol is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Albuterol can be passed through your body to your developing baby. If you have asthma or think you need albuterol while you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor before using it.

Women who are nursing

It isn’t known if albuterol is passed through breast milk. Breastfeeding after taking albuterol isn’t recommended.

When to call the doctor

Albuterol is a quick-relief drug. If you continue to wheeze or cough after a few minutes of using albuterol, contact your healthcare provider or go to the emergency department.

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How to Take albuterol (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

Bronchospasm in people with asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
Form: Oral Tablet
Strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18-64 years)
  • 2–4 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 13-17 years)
  • 2–4 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 6-12 years)
  • 2 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 24 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 0-5 years)
  • Dosage is based on weight. The dose is 0.1 mg per kilogram of weight taken three times per day in evenly spaced doses.
  • Your doctor will determine the correct dose for your child.
  • Don’t take more than 12 mg per day.
Senior Dosage (ages 65 years and older)
  • 2 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.

Prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm
Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 2 mg and 4 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18-64 years)
  • 2–4 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 13-17 years)
  • 2–4 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 6-12 years)
  • 2 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 24 mg per day.
Child Dosage (ages 0-5 years)
  • Dosage is based on weight. The dose is 0.1 mg per kilogram of weight taken three times per day in evenly spaced doses.
  • Your doctor will determine the correct dose for your child.
  • Don’t take more than 12 mg per day.
Senior Dosage (ages 65 years and older)
  • 2 mg taken three or four times per day in evenly spaced doses
  • Don’t take more than 32 mg per day.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Albuterol comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If You Don’t Take It at All

If you’re prescribed albuterol and don’t use it, you may experience mild or severe asthma symptoms. If you have severe asthma and don’t use your albuterol, you could have an asthma attack, which can be fatal.

If You Don’t Use Your Steroid Inhaler

If you need to use a steroid inhaler and you don’t use it, albuterol may not be enough to help you prevent long-term effects from untreated asthma. Always use prescribed steroids first and rely on albuterol only as a rescue medication.

If You Take It More Often Than Prescribed

If you feel like you need to use albuterol more often than your doctor prescribed, it may be a sign that your breathing problems are getting worse. Tell your doctor so they can decide whether you need a different medication for your breathing. Let your doctor know if you use more than one canister of the albuterol inhaler in a month.

If You Take Too Much

If you use too much albuterol, your heart rate may increase and cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or short of breath. Make sure to always follow your doctor’s instructions for using this drug.

What to Do If You Miss a Dose

If you take albuterol on a regular basis, try to take it at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s within a few hours of your next scheduled dose, wait until the next dose. Never double your dose or take more than your doctor prescribed.

How to Tell If the Drug Is Working

Albuterol is a quick-relief drug. You should be able to breathe more easily within a few minutes after taking it. It should reduce coughing or wheezing.

Is it a short-term or long-term treatment?

Albuterol can be used for both short-term and long-term treatment.

Short-term treatment:

  • a few days or weeks after you have a respiratory infection like the flu or pneumonia
  • occasionally for mild asthma or before exercise if you have asthma only when exercising

Long-term treatment:

Management of asthma along with a steroid inhaler as well as other chronic breathing problems. If you use it this way, you should need it only once or twice a week.

Important Considerations for Taking Albuterol
take with food You can take this form of albuterol with food to prevent upset stomach
can crush tablet You can cut or crush this tablet See Details
storage Store at room temperature: 68–77°F (20–25°C)
refillable Prescription is refillable
travel Never travel without your albuterol
self-management Self-Management See Details
clinical monitoring Clinical Monitoring See Details

You can cut or crush this tablet

If you have a hard time cutting the tablet, ask your doctor if you can change to the syrup form.

Self-Management

If you have asthma, your doctor may have you check your airflow with a peak flow meter. This is a simple device that tells you how well you’re inhaling and exhaling air, which is a guide to how well your lungs are working. Your doctor will explain how to use it.

Clinical Monitoring

Your doctor may check your airflow with a peak flow meter at appointments. They will also examine you and listen to your lungs.

Are There Any Alternatives?

Levalbuterol is a similar drug that is also fast acting. There are also combination drugs that include albuterol, like duoneb and combivent.

Note: Some combination drugs include salmeterol, which has some of the same effects as albuterol. However, it’s not a fast-acting drug and won’t help you if you have an asthma attack.

What does the pill look like?

Showing - out of 20
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How Much Does albuterol Cost?

Oral tablet
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Content developed in collaboration with Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on May 26, 2015

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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