Albuterol is a medication often given to treat of lung conditions in children and adults. It may help relieve symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Although it can be given in a syrup and through a metered dose inhaler, it is commonly administered through a nebulizer. Liquid medication is placed into a nebulizer cup and hooked to an air source. This creates an aerosol or mist to be inhaled.
Albuterol is a medication classified as a bronchodilator. This means it dilates or opens up the airways in the lungs. It treats lung constriction by relaxing the smooth muscles in the airway. When albuterol is used in a nebulizer it creates an aerosol medication that is inhaled into the lungs. When the albuterol is delivered via nebulizer the medication particles are small and get deposited deep into the lungs.
Most commonly, albuterol treatments are given to individuals who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease including emphysema and asthma. Albuterol nebulizer treatments also can be used in situations in which constriction of the airways occurs. For example, bronchitis and pneumonia may cause narrowing of the airways, and albuterol treatments may be prescribed.
Breathing medications, such as albuterol, are often classified as either maintenance medications or fast-acting medications. Maintenance medications are taken to prevent symptoms and fast-acting medications treat symptoms when they occur. Albuterol is a fast-acting medication and usually starts working in about 5 to 10 minutes. It lasts about four hours.
Most side effects are minor and commonly include increased blood pressure and heart rate, a jittery feeling, tremors, headache and possibly nausea. The chances of side effects increase with higher dosages. For example, most nebulizer treatments take about 15 minutes. However in cases of severe wheezing or airway constriction one hour treatments may be administered. Side effects usually start right after a treatment and can last about an hour.
Because albuterol can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, it may not be recommended for individuals with certain cardiac conditions. As with all types of medications, it’s important to be aware of drug interactions. Individuals taking certain tricyclic anti-depressants or beta blockers may be advised not to take albuterol. Although it may be prescribed during pregnancy, it is classified by the Federal Drug Administration as a category C drug, which means some studies in animals indicate it may have harmful effects on a fetus. However, there are not conclusive studies on humans to determine exact risks, and benefits of the drug may outweigh the risk.