What Precautions Should Be Taken with Albuterol?

What you should know before you buy Albuterol

It is easy to take too much albuterol while waiting for the results to take effect, even though it is a very fast-acting drug. Many people panic during breathing emergencies and take too many puffs of their inhalers in hopes of relief. Users of albuterol should only take it as directed by the prescriber, and if relief is not found at the prescribed dosage, professional medical assistance should be sought. Many children take albuterol, and they should be instructed in how to administer it themselves. Schools and athletic coaches should be notified of the child’s need for albuterol, and it should be made readily available in case of a respiratory emergency.


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Albuterol should never be taken by people taking MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) or tricyclic antidepressants, two older but still used drugs for mental health conditions. Concomitant use of albuterol with these drugs can cause toxicity and severe cardiovascular problems.


Albuterol should be used with caution in people taking digoxin, beta blockers, or propranolol for cardiac conditions. Albuterol can antagonize (exaggerate) or decrease the effectiveness of these medications.


Because it can cause hypokalemia (low serum potassium), albuterol should be used with caution in patients who are taking medications to intentionally lower their potassium levels. Albuterol combined with potassium-lowering drugs can have an additive effect.


Albuterol, which resembles terbutaline in chemical structure, is sometimes given off-label as an intravenous formulation to stop uterine contractions and halt premature labor. It is generally used with caution in pregnant women, as it can also interfere with appropriate uterine contractions. It is considered a Pregnancy Category C drug, and it is not known if it is excreted in breast milk. Nursing mothers should therefore use albuterol with caution and only when other effective agents are not available or the benefits outweigh the risks.


The presence of albuterol can be measured in the bloodstream, and it is frequently tested for in athletes at the elite level. International governing bodies in the sports world have vacillated in their requirements for athletes regarding the declaration of their use of albuterol for legitimate respiratory conditions. Therefore, athletes taking albuterol within at least 24 hours of competition should be prepared to be tested for it. Albuterol is sometimes abused for both athletic performance and body building purposes; the current testing level indicating abuse is anything above 1,000 micrograms/liter of blood.


A process known as tachyphylaxis may occur with albuterol, whereby users notice a decreased effect over time. Individuals who experience this phenomenon should contact their physicians right away, lest they not get full results from their albuterol during an episode of respiratory distress.


Albuterol canisters are considered flammable and can explode when exposed to fire, such as when placed in trash incineration. They should be disposed of in a safe manner that eliminates any danger of explosion. For both safety and efficacy, when in the patient’s possession, albuterol inhalers should ideally be kept free from extremes of temperature, such as those experienced inside a motor vehicle. While albuterol MDI canisters used to contain CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) propellants, which are harmful to the environment, they have been replaced with HFA (hydrofluoroalkane) propellants today.

What Are the Side Effects of Albuterol?

As a beta agonist, albuterol can cause jitters and nervousness, two common side effects. Other side effects include shaking, headache, nausea, vomiting, cough, throat irritation, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), chest pain, and muscle, back, or bone pain. Side effects associated with an allergic reaction to albuterol are: rash, hives, itching, swelling, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing.


Many of the jittery side effects of taking albuterol can be alleviated by using a spacer device when taking albuterol as an inhaled aerosol. This prevents the drug from being absorbed on the tongue and directs it into the respiratory tract at the back of the throat. A commercial spacer can be obtained from a pharmacy or physician’s office; a simple spacer can be constructed from a short piece of ventilator tubing, easily obtained from a pulmonologist or respiratory therapist.


Albuterol can also sometimes cause hypokalemia (dangerously low levels of potassium on the cellular level). This side effect is sometimes used to advantage by treating patients with hyperkalemia (too high levels of potassium) with albuterol. This is most often done is a pediatric setting.

What Is the History of Albuterol?

Albuterol was developed in 1969 as an analog of isoproterenol, an earlier drug used for bronchodilation. (The use of similar medications to treat asthma is thought to have been in existence as early as 3,000 BC in ancient China.) It was first marketed in Europe as Salbutamol, and it wasn’t until 1981 that the drug, under the name albuterol, was approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

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