About Bronchodilators


Bronchodilators are substances that are used to open bronchioles and bronchi for increased airflow into the lungs. They are mostly used by people with breathing problems, especially obstructive lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and asthma alongside restrictive lung diseases. The two main types of bronchodilators are: short-acting (used for short-term and fast relief) from severe bronchoconstriction and long-acting bronchodilators that are used for the long term (day to day) management of asthma.

Types of Bronchodilation Drugs

There are basically three main types of bronchodilators drugs: theophylline (long-acting), anticholinergics (short-acting), and adrenergic or beta-agonists (both long- and short-acting). They come in different forms and can be administered differently through inhalation, tablets that are orally administered, injectable and liquid forms. Anticholinergics and beta-agonists are best taken through inhalation.

1. Short-acting bronchodilator drugs

These drugs are known by other names, such as reliever, quick-acting, and rescue drugs and used in quick management of sudden but severe asthmatic attacks or symptoms. They work by dilating the airways and their action is fast, mostly a few minutes and last for up to four hours. These drugs are also used to thwart asthma attacks that may be induced when working out. They are easy to use and ideal for management of sudden asthma attacks at home.

It is important to note that the short-acting bronchodilator drugs should only be used for emergencies. However, in the event that these attacks become more common, forcing one to use them regularly, then it is recommended that a more convenient remedy be prescribed. You should therefore talk to your doctor whenever you have to use short-term bronchodilators for longer periods, especially more than twice every week.

2. Long-acting bronchodilators

Unlike the short-acting bronchodilators that offer fast relief, the long-acting bronchodilators are used for long-term management of asthma and in most cases, used jointly with inhaled steroids. They are normally prescribed for use twice a day by a competent doctor.

Some of the common drugs in this category include Advair, Serevent, Foradil, and Perforomist, all available in the United States and other countries. Advair, for example, is a combination of inhaled steroid and long-acting beta-agonist that is also used to control chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Due to the high risk of asthma-related deaths, these drugs should only be used to complement inhaled steroids. You must always consult your doctor before using any of these drugs for your own safety.

Common Side Effects of Bronchodilators

Using different bronchodilators may pose various side effects to the body, such as nervousness, insomnia, cramps or muscle aches, stomach upset, palpitations, or increased heart rate. However, these side effects may vary from one drug to another, age of the user, the condition and dosage. It is therefore vital that you always consult your doctor on possible side effects. If they are severe, don't hesitate to seek emergency medical attention.

Anticholinergic Bronchodilators

These are bronchodilators that are used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, especially asthma and emphysema. Most of these medicines are available in two forms; as nebulizer solutions and inhalers. Though effective, their main side effect is a dry throat and can cause blurred vision if they enter the eyes. Prescription of this drug depends on the age, nature and severity of the condition.

What Is Theophylline Bronchodilators?

This is an affordable but weaker bronchodilators whose chemical composition resembles that of caffeine. It works by relaxing the smooth muscles around the airways, allowing the flow of more air into the respiratory system. The drug is available as a pill for oral consumption and liquid form for intravenous administration. The drug requires close monitoring of blood levels and therefore is not often used to manage asthma symptoms.

Common Bronchodilators

Ventolin is used for treatment and prevention of asthmatic symptoms and other diseases that affect the airways. It is also used to treat bronchospasm induced by exercising.

Flovent is prescribed to patients of asthma aged at least four years to manage asthmatic symptoms. It contains a synthetic corticosteroid known as fluticasone.

Singulair has Montelukast sodium as an active ingredient and is used to treat shortness of breath and wheezing that are caused by asthmatic attacks. It also reduces the occurrences of the attacks, relieves symptoms of allergic rhinitis and hay fever such as itchy nose, sneezing, running, or stuffy nose.

Advair is one of the highly recommended asthma medications, which contains both fluticasone which inhibits the release of inflammation-causing substances and salmeterol, which is a bronchodilator.

Drug Interactions

Some medications, especially antibiotics, medicines used to treat ulcers and seizures are likely to interact with quite a number of bronchodilators. It is therefore important to share with your doctor any drugs you are taking for various illnesses as they may affect the effectiveness of bronchodilator drugs. You should also avoid smoke, especially cigarette smoking. This is not only when using these drugs, but if you suffer from any kind of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.