What Is Albuterol Prescribed For?

Albuterol medication is a beta-adrenergic receptor agonist with bronchodilator properties, available in the brands Proventil, Ventolin and others. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Albuterol to treat lung disorders in adults and children. Doctors also are allowed to prescribe medications for unapproved (off-label uses), and Albuterol is effective at treating certain other health conditions. Albuterol can be prescribed in tablets, syrup and as a rapid-acting inhaled mist. A solution form also is available that a nebulizer machine turns into a mist to be inhaled slowly.

  1. Lung Disorders

    • Albuterol is primarily prescribed to treat asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lung disorders. These conditions cause inflammation and swelling of the airways, which makes the airways very sensitive to allergens or irritants. The airways react by narrowing and reducing airflow (bronchospasm), leading to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Albuterol increases airflow to the lungs by relaxing muscles in the airways. Doctors also prescribe Albuterol to treat breathing difficulties caused by respiratory infections such as pneumonia.


    • American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation recommend treating elevated potassium levels (hyperkalemia) with nebulized albuterol over 15 minutes. This treatment is recommended for moderately-elevated potassium levels. A study published in a 1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine also indicated nebulized albuterol therapy as beneficial for decreasing elevated potassium levels in patients undergoing kidney dialysis.

    Muscular Dystrophy

    • A study published in a 1998 issue of the journal Neurology found that albuterol was effective at improving muscle mass and strength in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Patients receiving sustained-release albuterol over three months experienced an average of 12 percent improvement in muscle strength. They also had significant increases in lean body mass in the skeletal muscle compartment.

    Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

    • Additionally, albuterol is used to relieve symptoms of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in babies. This chronic lung disorder sometimes occurs in infants who were born prematurely or who experienced respiratory difficulties soon after birth and needed to be placed on a breathing machine.

    Premature Labor

    • According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), some reports indicate that oral albuterol delays premature labor. The NIH cautions that no well-controlled studies have confirmed that albuterol is beneficial for this use.

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