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Albuterol is one of the more commonly prescribed asthma inhalers in this country.

Although this medicine is also available in tablet form for oral use, the aerosol formulation is less likely to cause general side effects and is more frequently prescribed.

Inhaled albuterol is prescribed for the prevention as well as the treatment of asthma attacks.

It may also be used 15 minutes before vigorous activity to prevent exercise-induced asthma.

Side Effects and Interactions

One advantage of inhaled asthma medicine is that relatively little is absorbed into the body to cause unpleasant side effects.

However, inhaled albuterol can cause palpitations or rapid heart beat in some people.

Other possible side effects include nausea, tremor, nervousness, increased blood pressure, heartburn and dizziness.

There are rare reports of rash, itching, and allergic reactions that interfere with breathing.

In addition, albuterol can precipitate angina, insomnia, headache, unusual taste and irritation of the throat. Report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

Albuterol can interact with several other medications. Do not use a similar kind of bronchodilating inhaler such as Berotec, Brethaire, Alupent, Metaprel or Tornalate simultaneously with albuterol.

Certain antidepressants may also be dangerous in combination with this asthma drug.

Thyroid medication and antihistamines do not mix well with albuterol, and beta blocker medications may counteract its effectiveness.

Check with your pharmacist and physician before using any other medication in combination with this inhaler.

Special Precautions

Although albuterol is very effective, care must be taken not to overuse it.

Because of a relatively short duration of action of 4 to 6 hours, people may tempted to use their inhaler too frequently. This could lead to complications, including increased breathing difficulties or heart problems.

Individuals with preexisting heart conditions, diabetes, seizures, prostate problems or an overactive thyroid gland should use albuterol only under close supervision, if at all.

Ventolin Inhaler needs to be kept at room temperature — that is, between 59 and 86 degrees. If the aerosol is used at a different temperature, it may not provide an accurate dose.

Taking the Medicine

Use of inhalers is not as easy as it may seem. Make sure your physician provides detailed instructions and demonstrates how to inhale the aerosol so that the medicine ends up in the lungs and not in the back of the throat.

Never try to use the inhaler when you have food, beverage, chewing gum or anything else in your mouth.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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