The Side Effects You Might Experience If You Use Albuterol

Living with asthma poses unique challenges, especially for those with an active lifestyle. This chronic condition affects your lungs, making it difficult to breathe. In some cases, it may cause wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest during or after exercise, notes Asthma and Lung UK. Some people also experience flare-ups when exposed to dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or cigarette smoke. The Cleveland Clinic says that household cleaners and other chemicals can trigger asthma attacks, too.

One way to manage asthma symptoms is to use bronchodilators. These medications relax the muscles in your lungs, allowing for better airflow. Simply put, they can help you breathe more easily whenever your symptoms flare up, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Albuterol, a commonly used bronchodilator, may relieve coughing, wheezing, and breathing problems in people with asthma or other lung disorders, explains the Mayo Clinic. The drug is sold under different names, such as Ventolin, Proventil, and Accuneb, and requires a prescription.

Albuterol, or salbutamol, can be administered orally or inhaled, depending on its form (e.g. tablets, suspension, or powder), notes Healthline. The effects last for six to 12 hours, allowing you to carry on with your day without having to worry about asthma flare-ups. But like most medications, albuterol isn't entirely safe and may not work for everyone. 

What to expect when taking albuterol

The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends taking albuterol every four to six hours as needed or up to 30 minutes before exercise, but some people may experience wheezing and breathing problems immediately after using it. Other potential side effects include tremors, nausea, vomiting, coughing, headaches, allergic reactions, and body aches. What's more, the drug may not be safe for those with an overactive thyroid, diabetes, heart disease, or seizures.  

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice found that albuterol overuse has been shown to affect mental function and increase the risk of depression. Over-users are also more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms and a lower quality of life than those taking the recommended dosage. To prevent these issues, health experts advise against taking albuterol on the days you feel well.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice reports that about 25% of people with asthma overuse the drug. Albuterol isn't addictive, but you feel like you need it around the clock, explains WebMD. If that happens, you may end up overusing it or taking dangerously high doses, which could lead to insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, arrhythmia, seizures, and other serious side effects (per the U.S. National Library of Medicine). Also, note that albuterol tablets pose a higher risk of adverse reactions than the inhaled form, warns the National Capital Poison Center

Albuterol may affect children differently

Doctors can prescribe albuterol to children as young as two years of age, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some forms of the drug, such as albuterol powder, should only be used by children over 12. Given these aspects, it's important to note that your child may experience different reactions to this product than an adult.

Dry powder inhaler products, including albuterol, can cause painful urination in children, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Your child might also experience back pain and other aches after using their inhaler. Albuterol tablets, on the other hand, may cause toxic epidermal necrolysis, a skin disease characterized by painful red areas, blisters, eye irritation, mouth sores, and other local reactions.

Some children may also experience mood changes, digestive distress, vomiting, and nose or throat irritation after taking albuterol. Moreover, the drug can cause wheezing, hives, swelling of the face and mouth, and other symptoms indicating an allergic reaction. Less commonly, it may increase blood pressure or affect blood potassium levels, warns MSKCC. Call your doctor immediately if your child shows any of these symptoms.

Last but not least, beware that albuterol can interact with beta-blockers, antidepressants, diuretics, and digoxin, a medication prescribed for cardiovascular problems. For example, beta-blockers can inhibit the effects of albuterol and worsen your symptoms, explains Healthline. If you're taking any of these drugs, let your doctor know about it so they can adjust the dosage or prescribe a different treatment.