Highlights for terbutaline

  1. Terbutaline oral tablet is available as a generic drug. It’s not available as a brand-name drug.
  2. Terbutaline comes as an oral tablet, and as an intravenous (IV) form that’s only given by a healthcare provider.
  3. Terbutaline oral tablet is used to treat asthma and bronchospasm caused by bronchitis or emphysema.

Important warnings

FDA warning: Not for stopping premature labor

  • This drug has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.
  • Terbutaline shouldn’t be used to slow down or stop premature labor in pregnant women. It could cause serious side effects in pregnant women, such as high heart rate, low potassium levels, and heart problems. It may even be fatal. It could also cause fast heartbeat and low blood sugar in the unborn child.

Other warnings

  • Heart rate and blood pressure warning: In rare cases, terbutaline may increase your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have a heart issue, talk to your doctor before starting this drug.
  • Seizures warning: Rarely, this drug can cause seizures. If you have a seizure disorder, talk to your doctor before starting terbutaline.

What is terbutaline?

Terbutaline is a prescription drug. It comes as an oral tablet, and in an intravenous (IV) form that’s only given by a healthcare provider.

Terbutaline oral tablet is only available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less than brand-name versions.

Terbutaline may be taken as part of a combination therapy with anti-inflammatory drugs (corticosteroids).

Why it's used

Terbutaline is used to treat asthma and bronchospasm (narrowing of the airways) caused by bronchitis or emphysema. Bronchospasm causes your airways in your lungs to become narrow. This can lead to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

How it works

Terbutaline belongs to a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic agonist bronchodilators. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Terbutaline works by relaxing the muscles in the airways (bronchial tubes) in your lungs. This opens up the airways, which makes it easier for you to breathe.

Terbutaline side effects

Terbutaline oral tablet doesn’t usually cause drowsiness, but it can cause other side effects.

More common side effects

The more common side effects that can occur with terbutaline include:

  • nervousness
  • tremor
  • headache
  • fast heart rate

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 911 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:

  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there)

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.

Terbutaline may interact with other medications

Terbutaline oral tablet 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.

Examples of drugs that can cause interactions with terbutaline are listed below.

Depression drugs

When taken with terbutaline, certain drugs used to treat depression can worsen the side effects of terbutaline. Examples of these drugs include:

  • tricyclic antidepressants, such as:
    • amitriptyline
    • doxepin
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as:
    • phenelzine
    • selegiline

Heart drugs (beta blockers)

Terbutaline might not work as well in people with asthma when taken with beta blockers. This could lead to bronchospasm and trouble breathing. Examples of beta blockers include:

  • metoprolol
  • labetalol

Blood pressure drugs (diuretics)

Taking loop or thiazide diuretics with terbutaline may change your heart rate and decrease the amount of potassium in your body. Examples of these diuretics include:

  • furosemide
  • hydrochlorothiazide

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.

Terbutaline warnings

This drug comes with several warnings.

Allergy warning

Terbutaline may cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue

If you develop these symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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

Warnings for people with heart problems

In rare cases, terbutaline can change your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have a heart issue, talk to you doctor before starting this drug.

Warnings for other groups

For pregnant women: Terbutaline 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.

If you become pregnant while taking this drug, call your doctor right away.

For women who are breastfeeding: It is not known if terbutaline passes into breast milk. Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

For seniors: Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dosage may cause levels of this drug to be higher than normal in your body. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dosage or a different treatment schedule.

For children: This drug hasn’t been studied in children and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 12 years.

How to take terbutaline

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

Drug form and strengths

Generic: Terbutaline

  • Form: oral tablet
  • Strengths: 2.5 mg, 5 mg

Dosage for asthma and bronchospasm

Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

  • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg taken three times per day, 6 hours apart.
  • If you develop side effects: Your doctor may lower your dosage to 2.5 mg taken 3 times per day, every 6 hours.
  • Maximum dosage: 15 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 16–17 years)

  • Typical starting dosage: 5 mg taken three times per day, 6 hours apart.
  • If your child develops side effects: Your doctor may lower your child’s dosage to 2.5 mg taken 3 times per day, every 6 hours.
  • Maximum dosage: 15 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 12–15 years)

  • Typical starting dosage: 2.5 mg taken 3 times per day.
  • Maximum dosage: 7.5 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 0–11 years)

This medication hasn’t been studied in children younger than 12 years. It shouldn’t be used in children in this age range.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

There are no specific recommendations for senior dosing. Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dosage may cause levels of this drug to be higher than normal in your body. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dosage or a different treatment schedule.

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 speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.

Take as directed

Terbutaline oral tablet is used for long-term treatment. It comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all: Your symptoms could get worse. This could lead to serious breathing problems.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule: Your symptoms may not stay controlled. You may have more frequent episodes of breathing problems.

What to do if you miss a dose: Take your dose as soon as you remember. But if you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

If you take too much: You may have side effects, such as:

  • seizures
  • low or high blood pressure
  • irregular heart rate
  • tremors
  • dry mouth

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

How to tell if the drug is working: Your symptoms should be better controlled and you should have fewer breathing problems.

Important considerations for taking terbutaline

Keep these considerations in mind if your doctor prescribes terbutaline for you.

General

  • If you have trouble swallowing the tablet, you can crush it and mix it with food.

Storage

  • Store terbutaline at room temperature between 68°F (20°C) and 77°F (25°C).
  • Keep this drug away from high temperature.
  • Keep this drug away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

Refills

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 harm your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled container 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 doctor should monitor certain health issues during your treatment with terbutaline. This can help make sure you stay safe while taking this drug. These issues include:

  • heart function, if you’re having side effects
  • potassium levels, if you’re having side effects
  • lung function

Availability

Not every pharmacy stocks this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead to make sure your pharmacy carries it.

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.

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.