Albuterol | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

albuterol, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Proventil Repetabs (Discontinued)
  • VoSpire ER
  • Volmax (Discontinued)
A discontinued drug is a drug that has been taken off the market due to safety issues, shortage of raw materials, or low market demand.
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Highlights for albuterol

Oral tablet
1

Albuterol is used to relieve tightening and swelling of the muscles around the airways (bronchospasm) in children and adults with asthma.

2

Albuterol is available in these forms: nebulizer solution, metered dose inhaler, immediate-release tablet, extended-release tablet, and oral syrup. You take this drug by mouth or inhalation.

3

The oral tablet is only available as a generic drug.

4

More common side effects of taking this drug include fast or irregular heart rate, chest pain, shakiness, nervousness, headache, dizziness, sore throat, and runny nose.

5

Depending on what form you take, albuterol’s actions can last 6–12 hours. You shouldn’t take this drug more often than what your doctor recommends. If your symptoms become worse or you need to use it more frequently, seek medical attention right away. 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Worsening breathing or wheezing (paradoxical bronchospasm)

Albuterol can make your breathing or wheezing worse (paradoxical bronchospasm). This can be life-threatening. If this happens, stop taking albuterol right away. Your doctor will give you a different medicine. Paradoxical bronchospasms usually occur with the first use of a new canister or vial.

Worsening asthma

If you need more doses of albuterol than usual, this might mean your asthma is worse. If this happens, see your doctor. They may give you a different medicine, such as an inhaled corticosteroid.

Drug features

Albuterol is a prescription drug. It’s available in these forms: nebulizer solution, metered dose inhaler, immediate-release tablet, extended-release tablet, and oral syrup.

The oral tablet is only available as a generic drug.

Albuterol may be taken as part of a combination therapy with inhaled corticosteroids, long acting beta agonists, and bronchodilators to help with symptoms of asthma.

Why it's used

Albuterol tablets are used to treat tightening and swelling of the muscles around the airways (bronchospasm) in people with asthma. It’s used in adults and children 6 years of age and older.

How it works

Albuterol belongs to a class of drugs called beta2-adrengergic bronchodilators. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way.

More Details

How it works

Albuterol belongs to a class of drugs called beta2-adrengergic bronchodilators. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. They are often used to treat similar conditions.

Albuterol helps to relax the airway muscles for up to 6–12 hours. This helps you breathe more easily.

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albuterol Side Effects

Oral tablet

More Common Side Effects

Some of the more common side effects that can occur with albuterol include:

  • fast or irregular heart rate

  • chest pain

  • shakiness

  • nervousness

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • sore throat

  • runny nose

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • tightening and swelling of the muscles around your airways (bronchospasm). Symptoms include:

    • trouble breathing
    • wheezing
  • serious allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

    • hives
    • skin rash
    • swelling of your face, eyelids, lips, tongue, or throat
    • trouble swallowing
    • worsening of your breathing problems, such as wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath
    • loss of blood pressure and consciousness (shock)
  • heart problems. Symptoms include:

    • faster heart rate
    • higher blood pressure
  • severe skin reactions, such as erythema multiforme and Stevens-Johnson syndrome, may rarely occur in children. Symptoms include:

    • itching
    • burning
    • red lesions or a rash that spreads over your body
    • fever
    • chills
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Albuterol doesn’t cause drowsiness.

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.
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albuterol May Interact with Other Medications

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Albuterol can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Blood pressure drugs

In general, people with asthma shouldn’t use blood pressure medicines called beta blockers. Beta blockers block the breathing effect of albuterol. This can cause severe bronchospasms and more trouble breathing in people with asthma.

These drugs include:

  • beta blockers, such as:
    • propranolol
    • atenolol

Using other blood pressure drugs such as water pills (diuretics) with albuterol can cause heart rhythm changes and lower than normal potassium levels. If these medications are given together, your doctor should monitor your potassium levels.

These drugs include:

  • furosemide
  • hydrochlorothiazide
  • chlorthalidone
  • bumetanide

Digoxin

Use caution when taking digoxin and albuterol together. Albuterol can lower digoxin levels in your body. This means that it may not work as well. You doctor may adjust your digoxin dose and monitor your digoxin blood levels during treatment. 

Depression medications

Use extreme caution if you take albuterol with certain depression medicines or take them within 2 weeks of each other. Taking these drugs together may significantly increase the heart effects of albuterol.

These drugs include:

  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as:
    • phenelzine
    • selgiline
    • tranylcypromine
  • tricyclic antidepressants, such as:
    • amitriptyline
    • imipramine
    • nortriptyline

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 heart disorders

Tell your doctor if you have a heart condition such as insufficiency, irregular heart rate, or high blood pressure. Albuterol may significantly change your blood pressure, heart rate, or pulse. This could make your heart condition worse.

People with diabetes

Albuterol can make your blood sugar control worse. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you.

People with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

Albuterol may make your overactive thyroid worse. If you have this condition, talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you.

People with seizures

If you have seizures, talk to your doctor to find out if this drug is safe for you. It can make your condition worse.

People with low potassium levels

Albuterol can further lower your potassium levels. If you already have low potassium levels, this could cause negative heart effects.

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.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Women who are breast-feeding

It isn’t known if albuterol passes into breast milk. If it does, it may cause side effects in a child who is breast-fed.

Talk to your doctor if you breast-feed your baby. You may need to decide whether to stop breast-feeding or stop taking this medication.

For seniors

Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dose may cause levels of the drug to be higher than normal. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dose or a different schedule.

For children

The safety and effectiveness of this drug hasn’t been established in children under the age of 6 years.

Allergies

Albuterol can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue
  • hives

Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room if you develop these symptoms.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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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?

Tightening and swelling of the muscles around the airways (bronchospasm)

Generic: albuterol

Form: Oral immediate-release tablet
Strengths: 2 mg, 4 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

The usual starting dose is 2–4 mg taken by mouth three or four times per day. Your doctor may slowly increase your dose to a maximum of 8 mg taken four times a day if needed. Your total daily dose shouldn’t be more than 32 mg per day.

Child dosage (ages 13–17 years)

The usual starting dose is 2–4 mg taken by mouth three or four times per day. Doses higher than 4 mg taken four times a day should only be used when you have failed to respond to lower doses. Your doctor may slowly increase your dose to a maximum of 8 mg taken four times a day if needed. Your total daily dose shouldn’t be more than 32 mg per day.

Child dosage (ages 6–12 years)

The usual starting dose is 2 mg taken by mouth 3–4 times a day. Your doctor may slowly increase the dose if your child doesn’t respond to the starting dose. The maximum daily dose is 24 mg per day, given in divided doses.

Child dosage (ages 0–5 years)

The safety and effectiveness of this drug hasn’t been established in children younger than 6 years of age.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

A starting dose of 2 mg taken by mouth 3–4 times per day is recommended for seniors. If needed, your doctor may slowly increase your dose to 8 mg taken three or four times a day. Your total daily dose shouldn’t be more than 32 mg per day.

Special considerations

If you’re taking albuterol tablets or syrup, you can switch to albuterol extended-release tablets. One 4-mg albuterol extended-release tablet taken every 12 hours is the same as one 2-mg albuterol tablet taken every 6 hours.

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 stop taking the drug or don’t take it at all

If you don’t take albuterol at all, your asthma might get worse. This can lead to irreversible scarring of your airway. You’ll have shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Albuterol is used on an as-needed basis. However, if you’re having acute flare-ups of asthma, you should be taking albuterol 3-4 times a day. If you don’t take it on schedule during this time, you’ll have more trouble breathing.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. You may have the following symptoms:

  • fast heartbeat
  • arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • jitteriness

If you think you’ve taken too much of the drug, act right away. Call your doctor or local poison control center, or go to the nearest emergency room.

What to do if you miss a dose

Albuterol can be used as needed. If you’re using it on a scheduled basis (for asthma flare ups) and miss a dose, take your dose as soon as you remember. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

If this drug is working, your asthma symptoms should get better. You may not have as much shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing.

Albuterol is a short-term and long-term drug treatment

You can use albuterol during flare-ups for your asthma. You might also need to take albuterol long-term to relieve shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing due to your asthma.

You can cut or crush this tablet

Make sure they’re not the extended-release tablets.

Store albuterol tablets at room temperature

Keep it from 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C). Keep it away from high temperature.

Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

Your lung function will be monitored. This will tell if your medication is working.

This monitoring may be done using this test:

  • Spirometry. This test will measure your lung function.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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How Much Does albuterol Cost?

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for albuterol on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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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 October 30, 2015

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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