A bronchodilator does what its name suggests; it dilates the bronchi and bronchioles.

A bronchodilator is commonly used to treat asthma, obstructive lung disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In all of these illnesses, people have trouble breathing due to airway constriction. Bronchodilators ease inflammation, thus opening airways in the lungs and allowing more air to flow through them naturally.

A bronchodilator is most commonly delivered via inhaler but can also be administered by injection and oral medication. Most types are available only by prescription, but some types are sold over the counter.

Bronchodilators come in both short-acting and long-acting varieties.

A short-acting bronchodilator is often referred to as a “rescue inhaler” and is often used to treat sudden or increased asthma symptoms. This type of bronchodilator generally lasts four to six hours and is not meant to be the sole form of treatment for someone with chronic problems.

A long-acting bronchodilator is used to prevent severe breathing problems for those with chronic conditions. It is often used to help those with breathing difficulties in their sleep and generally lasts up to 12 hours.

Common types of bronchodilators and their brand names include:

  • Albuterol (salbutamol): Accuneb, ProAir, Proventil, Ventolin
  • Bambuterol: Bambec, Oxeol
  • Clenbuterol: Spiropent, Ventipulmin
  • Ephedrine: Bronkaid
  • Epinephrine: Primatine, Primatine Mist
  • Formoterol: Foradil Aerolizer
  • Ipratropium: Apovent, Atrovent
  • Metaproterenol: Alupent, Metaprel
  • Pirbuterol: Maxair
  • Salmeterol: Serevent
  • Terbutaline: Brethine, Bricanyl