Albuterol is a necessary medication used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions. It has been used for decades and continues to be a mainstay in emergency medicine rooms and the homes of many people suffering from asthmatic symptoms.
Understanding albuterol—its uses, classification, side effects, dosage forms, and more—is essential for those with respiratory issues to get the best care possible.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at all aspects of albuterol and the albuterol route of administration so that you can better understand how it may fit into your treatment plan.
Table of Contents
Albuterol Description & Brand Names
US Brand Name
Canadian Brand Name
|Alti-Salbutamol Inhalation Aerosol
|Salbutamol Respirator Solution
|ReliOn Ventolin HFA
|Ventolin Nebules PF
Albuterol is a bronchodilator that helps open the airways and make breathing easier. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways so that they can open up more quickly. This allows for improved airflow into and out of the lungs, relieving asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
Classification of Albuterol
Albuterol is a sympathomimetic amine classified as a β2-adrenergic receptor agonist. This means it opens the airways in the lungs by stimulating an increase in adrenaline production and widening of smooth muscles in the bronchi and trachea. In other words, Albuterol relaxes the passages in your lungs and lets more air move through them, making breathing easier.
Route of Administration for Albuterol
The route of administration for Albuterol shatters the common misconception that all medicines must be swallowed or injected. Albuterol can be administered through several methods, including inhalation, oral tablets, and even in the form of syrup. Inhalation remains the most popular method for treating respiratory issues like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
Why? Simply put, inhalers make it easy for the medication to reach the affected part of the body quickly without going through several digestive system layers. Moreover, individuals can use inhalers easily wherever they may be, making it more convenient for patients to take the medication as needed.
Albuterol is available in both oral inhalation (inhalers) and intravenous (IV) forms.
- Inhaled Albuterol works quickly—within just minutes—to relieve symptoms.
- IV albuterol is usually used in an emergency room setting and takes effect within 15 minutes or less after administration.
Uses of Albuterol
Albuterol is primarily used for relief from moderate to severe symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It reduces inflammation in the airways and helps open them up so that more air can move through.
It may sometimes treat other breathing disorders, such as bronchitis or emphysema. It is also off-label for treating conditions like preterm labor and certain seizures.
Albuterol Formulations & Dosage
Albuterol comes in several different forms. It can be found in an oral solution, an inhalant, a nebulized solution, and even an injectable form. The type of Albuterol your doctor will prescribe you depends on the severity of your condition and the likelihood that you will need to take the medication regularly.
Generally, the inhalant form is most common since this allows for direct delivery of the medication into your lungs. Dosage typically ranges from 2-4 puffs taken every four to six hours as needed, but it can vary depending on your specific condition and response to treatment.
Side Effects of Albuterol
Because of Albuterol’s effect on the beta receptors, side effects include:
- Tachycardia occurs when the beta-1 receptors in the heart are stimulated by Albuterol, leading to an increase in heart rate as compensation for a decrease in blood pressure caused by vasodilation.
- Furthermore, tremors can also be attributed to Albuterol acting on the beta-2 receptors of skeletal muscle.
Additionally, Albuterol can cause several side effects, including:
- heart palpitations.
Additionally, some people may experience throat irritation or coughing when using the inhalant form. If you experience any side effects, you must speak with your doctor so they can adjust your dosage or switch to another medication if needed.
Note- Please note that this list of side effects is not exhaustive. If you experience any other serious side effects, please seek medical advice from your doctor. You can also report any side effects to the FDA by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.
What Special Guidelines Should I Follow?
- Albuterol can be administered as a nebulized solution, an aerosol inhaler, or a powder. You’ll need to place the nebulizer in the reservoir and connect it to a face mask or mouthpiece. When using this method at home, patients should clean the nebulizer after each use.
- The aerosol formulation (ProAir HFA and Proventil HFA) should be at room temperature before use. Before the first use, patients must shake it well and spray it a few times away from their face. To administer the medication correctly, patients should shake the container, breathe out completely, place the mouthpiece before their open mouth (or use a spacer), and slowly inhale while pressing down on the canister. They then need to hold their breath for 10 seconds and exhale slowly. If multiple puffs are required, they must wait one full minute before continuing their dose. Once finished, they should rinse their mouth with water.
- Using the inhalation powder (ProAir Digihaler and ProAir Respicklick), patients should breathe out completely, place the mouthpiece into their mouths, and close their lips around it. Then, they must take a full breath, hold it for 10 seconds, and exhale slowly. A spacer can be used with the ProAir Respicklick but not the ProAir Digihaler.
Critical Thinking Practice
- Your patient has a history of asthma, just started taking furosemide 40mg BID yesterday, and is now fluid overloaded. She complains of chest tightness with expiratory wheezes, and her O2 saturation dropped from 97% on RA to 91%. Before you administer the PRN albuterol, what information do you need?
- In addition to reversing bronchospasm, Albuterol can also cause a shift of potassium from the extracellular to intracellular space and is used to treat hyperkalemia. Furosemide, on the other hand, causes hypokalemia through increased excretion of potassium. Therefore, knowing the patient’s potassium level is essential before giving them their Albuterol. Hypokalemia can affect cardiac function and even lead to cardiac arrest, so you should alert the MD if this concerns you.
- So, before administering Albuterol to a patient taking furosemide or other loop diuretics, check their potassium level and inform the MD of any concerns. Doing this can ensure the best possible outcome for your patient.
Now that you have all the details you need to know about Albuterol, you can confidently relax and prepare for your next nursing school exam.
Albuterol is an essential medication for those with respiratory conditions, as it helps to reduce inflammation and open up the airways allowing for easier breathing. Knowing about Albuterol’s uses, classification, side effects, and dosage forms will help you decide how it may fit into your treatment plan. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding albuterol use.
Mrs. Marie Brown has been a registered nurse for over 25 years. She began her nursing career at a Level I Trauma Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois. There she worked in the Emergency Department and on the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. After several years, she moved to the Midwest and continued her nursing career in a critical care setting. For the last 10 years of her nursing career, Mrs. Brown worked as a flight nurse with an air ambulance service. During this time, she cared for patients throughout the United States.