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What is albuterol sulfate?


Albuterol sulfate is a prescription medicine marketed under several brand names including Accuneb and Proair HFA Inhalation Aerosol. It is used for the treatment and prevention of bronchospasm, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in patients that are four years of age or older that have reversible obstructive airway disease. Albuterol sulfate (also known as salbutamol) is also used for the prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm. Patients with asthma, bronchitis, general breathing problems, and lung diseases can also use albuterol sulfate to prevent bronchospasm while exercising.

How does albuterol sulfate work?

Albuterol sulfate is in the short-acting inhaled beta-agonists category of medicines and is considered a bronchodilator. It help relaxes the bronchial smooth muscle by acting on beta-adrenergic receptors. Albuterol sulfate also stops the release of immediate hypersensitivity mediators from mast cells. This helps relieve wheezing, general coughing, and breathing problems in patients. It should be noted that albuterol sulfate is not a substitute for corticosteroids. 

What doses of albuterol sulfate are available?

Albuterol sulfate is usually supplied with an 8.5g canister that contains 200 actuations. Each actuation delivers an equivalent of 90 mcg of albuterol base from the mouthpiece. If the patient is 4 years of age or older, two inhalations every four to six hours is the standard dosage for the treatment and prevention of bronchospasm. For some people, one inhalation every four hours is enough. For sole prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm in both adults and children, two inhalations 15 to 30 minutes before exercise should be taken. Albuterol sulfate usually lasts about four to six hours in your system.

How do you use albuterol sulfate?

Before using albuterol sulfate, ensure you follow all directions given to you by your healthcare provider. Read all directions on your prescription label, and follow all instructions for use on your patient information. Do not take more or less than what your doctor prescribes. Talk to your doctor if you find you need more doses of albuterol sulfate than usual. This may signal that your asthma is deteriorating, not getting better.

You may need to clean and prime your albuterol sulfate oral inhaler device before your first time using it. If required, your medicine comes with directions for priming. ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, or Proventil HFA must be shaken before each use. You do not need to shake ProAir RespiClick.

It is also important to keep your inhaler consistently clean. Remove the canister and clean the plastic actuator at least once a week. Do not try to take apart or clean the ProAir RespiClick inhaler device. Talk to your doctor about whether you should use a spacer to help deliver the medicine.

Do not allow a young child to use albuterol sulfate without help from an adult.

What are the side effects of albuterol sulfate?

The most common adverse events of albuterol sulfate in clinical trials compared to placebo include:

  • Chest pain

  • Fast heart rate

  • Headache

  • Pain

  • Dizziness

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Nervousness

Rarely, albuterol sulfate may cause some serious side effects, including:

  • Swelling

  • Pounding, fast or irregular heartbeat

  • Chest pain

  • Worsening of other medical problems, including an increase in blood sugar

  • Low potassium levels in your blood

  • More trouble breathing, wheezing, or coughing (paradoxical bronchospasm)

    • If this occurs, stop using the medication and call your doctor immediately

  • Possible death if too much albuterol sulfate is used in patients with asthma

    • Symptoms of overdose would possibly include tremors, dry mouth, irregular heartbeat, seizure, general ill feeling

  • Allergic reactions; call your doctor immediately if you have:

    • Rash

    • Itchy skin

    • Swelling beneath the skin or in your throat

    • Trouble breathing

Contact your healthcare professional for medical advice about any possible adverse effects you experience while taking albuterol sulfate. You can report your adverse effects to the US Food and Drug Administration at 1-800-FDA-1088 or

Albuterol sulfate drug interactions

When albuterol sulfate is taken with other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements, it may change how they work or increase the frequency or severity of side effects. Some drug interactions with albuterol sulfate include:

  • Other short-acting sympathomimetic aerosol bronchodilators and adrenergic drugs

  • Beta-blockers (such as propranolol) may decrease the effectiveness of albuterol sulfate

  • Diuretics, especially non-potassium sparing diuretics

    • Talk to your doctor about monitoring potassium levels

  • Digoxin, as albuterol sulfate may decrease serum digoxin levels

    • Talk to your doctor about monitoring digoxin levels

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants might have adverse effects on the heart

    • Talk to your doctor about alternative therapy if you are taking these medications

Albuterol sulfate precautions

You should be sure that your healthcare provider is aware of all your medical conditions, including if you have:

  • A heart rhythm disorder

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • A seizure disorder such as epilepsy

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

  • Diabetes

  • Pregnant, breastfeeding, or may become pregnant

  • Low levels of potassium in your blood

Is there a generic available for albuterol sulfate?

Yes, albuterol sulfate is the generic equivalent of brand names such as:

  • ProAir RespiClick

  • ProAir HFA

  • Proventil HFA

  • Ventolin HFA

How do you store albuterol sulfate?

You should keep albuterol sulfate in its original container tightly closed and out of the reach of children. The nebulizer inhalation solution should be stored in the foil pouch in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Keep them away from extreme heat and moisture. The inhaler should be stored at room temperature and also away from heat, long exposure to sunlight, freezing, and moisture. The aerosol canister should not be punctured or sprayed in your eyes.

The albuterol sulfate inhaler should be discarded when the counter shows 0 or after the expiration date. Even if the canister is not completely empty, do not use it if the product has expired. Do not flush the medication or burn it in a fire. Talk to your pharmacist or your local garbage/recycling department for best practices on how to discard the medication.

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