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Ventolin (albuterol or salbutamol) is typically used as a fast-acting rescue inhaler to treat bronchospasm in asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The medication is available in several forms:
The vast majority of Ventolin use is by inhaler, in which the medication is delivered directly to the lungs, where it is most needed. Nebulizer use is also fairly common, though it is not as convenient as inhalers. Availability of tablets and syrups varies by location, while IV fluids are generally reserved for hospital use.
Getting the Most from Ventolin
Ventolin, like any rescue inhaler, is used as-needed to reduce or eliminate symptoms of bronchospasm. It can be safely used by otherwise-healthy patients age 4 and up. It may be used in addition to long-term maintenance treatments, such as corticosteroid inhalers, but should not be used in addition to other fast-acting treatments, such as epinephrine, without doctor approval.
Treatment is most effective when the inhaler is used properly:
Results are usually noticeable just seconds after use, but it may take up to 20 minutes for full effects to be felt. Effects should last 4 to 6 hours. Patients are generally advised not to use the inhaler more than every 4 to 6 hours, and to seek medical attention if bronchospasm is not eliminated. However, if medical attention is not readily available, the inhaler may be administered again after 20 minutes if breathing is still difficult; the risk of overdose is very small compared to the risks associated with asphyxiation.
Some individuals who suffer from exercise-induced bronchospasm use Ventolin as a preventive measure. The medication is administered in the same way, but instead of taking puffs to relieve existing symptoms, puffs are taken 20 to 30 minutes prior to anticipated symptoms--that is, prior to exercise or other activity which usually triggers an attack. Effectiveness can vary greatly between individuals; some are able to prevent attacks completely, while others notice no difference at all.
Treatment typically lasts as long as Ventolin is needed and produces good results, which is usually very long term, often for the remainder of life. If Ventolin inhalers begin to lose effectiveness, speak with a doctor about other options. Many patients find nebulized Ventolin to be more effective than inhalers.
Ventolin Side Effects
Side effects associated with Ventolin are the same as those encountered with any albuterol inhaler. Most side effects are mild and not cause for concern unless severe, and may stop occurring as treatment continues if the inhaler is used with any regularity.
Common side effects include:
Less commonly Ventolin may produce more serious, and often more subtle, adverse effects, which do warrant medical attention, including heart beat changes, high blood pressure, low potassium levels and increased blood sugar. Warning signs include:
Also very rarely Ventolin may produce paradoxical bronchospasm, which actually worsens the bronchospasm. This calls for emergency medical attention, and additional Ventolin should not be administered. Paradoxical bronchospasm typically occurs with the first use of a new inhaler.
No current Rx required
Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.
Ventolin is the only rescue inhaler I have used that works like magic. When my allergies or the weather is making my lungs act up, I use this and it works right away. I don't know what I'd do without it except end up in the hospital every time I get short of breath!