Family doctor





These drugs are used to relieve asthma. This article provides an overview of the medication.


Short-acting: Salbutamol, Airomir‚ Ventolin‚ Respolin‚ Terbutaline, Bricanyl

Long-acting: Salmeterol, Serevent‚ Eformoterol, Foradil‚ Oxis Turbuhaler

USE: Asthma relief (also reversible airways obstruction and premature labour)

Inhaled bronchodilators (beta2-adrenoreceptor stimulants) work by acting on the bronchial smooth muscle. Thus allowing the airways to relax on a needed basis during a bout of asthma by relieving shortness of breath, tightness of chest and wheeze. There are THREE main types of devices used to deliver these medicines:

1. Metered dose inhaler

2. Autohalers

3. Nebuliser solutions


  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding (discus with doctor)
  • Diabetics (monitor blood pressure)

Side effects:

  • Muscle tremor
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Palpitations (heart thumping)

Overdose: May result in chest pain, high blood pressure, headache, muscle tremor and cramps. Consult doctor or seek emergency medical treatment if severe overdose occurs.


Salbutamol (Ventolin) and beta-blocking agents (sotalol, anselol, selectol) should not be prescribed together.

High doses of salbutamol, terbutaline, salmeterol and eformoterol with corticosteroids, diuretics and theophylline can cause low potassium levels. Blood potassium levels should be monitored in severe asthma.

Patient information:

  • Follow the instructions on the label of the medicine or as directed by your doctor
  • Used only to treat acute asthma where it does not treat underlying inflammation of the airways.
  • Check inhaler technique is correct to make sure delivery of drug is maximised
  • If your symptoms do not respond promptly to these medications,you may have more severe asthma and should seek prompt medical assessment.
  • Reduced response to these medications, or increased regular usage,usually means your asthma is not being well controlled, and a preventer (inhaled steroid or cromoglycate (intal) should be considered.

See also:

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