What Should You Know About Albuterol?
Albuterol, also known as salbutamol, is a quick-relief asthma medicine that belongs to a drug class called bronchodilators. It is used to treat the symptoms of asthma attacks, exercise-induced asthma, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This drug is available in different forms, but it’s mostly used with an inhaler or nebulizer.
Albuterol helps to open up the airways in the lungs by relaxing the lung muscles. Usually, it takes a few minutes for the effect of the medication to appear.
In the United States, you can find three brands of albuterol-based rescue inhalers, such as Ventolin, Proair, and Proventil. All of these inhalers are quite similar, except that Ventolin is equipped with a dose counter.
How Does Albuterol Act?
Albuterol works by relaxing the smooth muscles in the lungs and opening the breathing passages.
Smooth muscle, or involuntary muscle, is a type of muscle tissue found in the hollow organs like stomach, intestines, urinary bladder, as well as in the walls of passageways, including the tracts of respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems and the blood vessels of the circulatory system. Unlike skeletal muscles, smooth muscles cannot be controlled voluntarily.
People with asthma may often experience bronchoconstriction – constriction of the airways caused by the tightening of the smooth muscles. There are various potential triggers of such a reaction, including common seasonal allergens like pollen and dust.
An asthma attack is also associated with the symptoms like overproduction of mucus, blockage of upper airways, as well as inflammation and swelling of the airways.
The mechanism of action of albuterol involves activating beta-2 adrenergic receptors – molecules found on the surface of smooth muscles, which helps to relieve the muscle contraction. This also allows to prevent the secretion of inflammatory chemicals into the bloodstream.
Thus, albuterol provides a dual action: it relaxes the lung muscles and reduces the inflammation preventing further narrowing of the airways.
What Are the Side Effects of Albuterol?
Most medications are associated with certain side effects, and albuterol is not an exception. The side effects of albuterol may include headaches, anxiety, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, shakiness, and dry mouth.
In rare cases, people taking albuterol may develop a rapid or abnormal heartbeat, sleeping problems, mood swings, and flushing of the skin.
Remember that albuterol should not be used for longer periods. Excessive use of this medication may result in low levels of potassium – hypokalemia. This condition is especially serious for people with kidney disease.
How Should You Use Albuterol?
Albuterol inhaler is quite a user-friendly product. Experts recommend using a spacer to make sure the medication does directly to the lungs instead of landing in the mouth or in the back of the throat. Spacers are special tube-like devices that create space between the mouth and inhaler, making it easier to administer the inhaled medication.
When using an inhaler for the first, you should always prime the medication by shaking the container and pressing it down four times. This helps to clear the opening of the inhaler. You should also prime your inhaler, if you have not used it for more than 14 days.
In order to use an albuterol inhaler properly, you should first exhale though the mouth and relax. Put the mouthpiece of your spacer in your mouth, between the lips and teeth, making a seal, so that the medication doesn’t escape. Then, press down on the canister and inhale deeply, holding your breath for about 10 seconds. Exhale slowly after removing the device.
If you need another dose, you should wait 30 seconds to one minute and repeat all the steps once again.
Each puff, or dose, delivers around 108 micrograms of albuterol, while each inhaler contains up to 200 inhalations.
How to Clean an Albuterol Inhaler?
Cleaning the inhaler regularly helps to prevent it from clogging and maintain the effectiveness of the medication. In order to clean your inhaler, you should take off the canister from the holder and rinse it under warm water for about half a minute. Then, leave it overnight, to ensure proper drying. Remember to clean your inhaler at least once a week.