Albuterol is a prescription medication used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions. Many patients use albuterol in an inhaler to treat acute asthma symptoms, but it is also available as an inhalation solution that is administered via nebulizer. Young children often need to use a nebulizer to treat asthma because they are not old enough to properly use an inhaler. The inhalation solution is also often used in hospital settings.
Albuterol is a sympathomimetic bronchodilator that works by relaxing the muscles in the airway and allowing oxygen to flow more freely. When this occurs, breathing becomes easier. People taking albuterol via a nebulizer place the solution in the medication cup, and when the machine is turned on, the medication creates a mist that patients breathe in. A treatment generally takes between 5 and 10 minutes.
In rare cases, people using albuterol to treat respiratory conditions may experience a worsening of their symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath. If this occurs, seek immediate medical attention to get assistance with breathing and make sure oxygen levels are sufficient.
Some people taking albuterol may experience side effects such as a sore or dry throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, a sinus infection, dizziness, tremors and nervousness. None of these side effects is serious, but inform your doctor if they become bothersome.
In rare cases, people taking albuterol may develop serious side effects that indicate a potential complication requiring medical treatment. Stop using the medicine and contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following: a fast or irregular heartbeat, pounding in the chest, chest pain, red, swollen, peeling or blistered skin, severe headaches or dizziness, ear pain, and unusual hoarseness.
Although albuterol is safe for most people, some should not take it without first speaking with their doctor. This includes women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with a history of heart problems, people who have had a prior unusual reaction to a sympathomimetic drug, people with a history of seizures and those with diabetes, adrenal gland tumors, an overactive thyroid or kidney problems. Always speak with your doctor about your complete medical history before taking any prescription medications.