A bronchodilator assists in relaxing the muscles encircling your air passages, facilitating the expulsion of mucus from your lungs. This alleviates symptoms associated with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and similar lung conditions. With the muscles relaxed, air can flow more freely in and out of your lungs, enabling easier breathing. Additionally, the loosened airways make it simpler to expel mucus through coughing.

There are two forms of a bronchodilator:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators: Acute (sudden) asthma symptoms are promptly relieved or stopped with short-acting bronchodilators. For three to six hours, they work effectively. A rescue inhaler is another term for a short-acting bronchodilator. Medicine canisters with a mouthpiece enclosed in a plastic holder are called inhalers. An inhaler provides a steady dosage of medication when sprayed.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators: Your airways remain open for 12 hours when using long-acting bronchodilators. You avoid asthma attacks by using these inhalers on a daily basis.

The most common forms of bronchodilators are inhalers, tablets, and nebulizers—a battery-operated device that produces a tiny spray.


Bronchodilators come in three main types:

  • Beta 2-agonists: Both short-acting and long-acting beta 2-agonists are available.
    • Short-acting beta 2-agonists (SABAs) open your airways fast to relieve asthma symptoms. Since SABAs are the greatest medicines for treating sudden, severe, or new asthma symptoms, people sometimes refer to them as “reliever” or “rescue” treatments.
    • SABAs take 15 to 20 minutes to start working and last for 4 to 6 hours. To avoid asthma symptoms triggered by physical exercise, you can also use them 15 to 20 minutes before exercising.
    • SABA medication (inhalation) include the following:
      • Albuterol (Ventolin).
      • Levalbuterol (Xopenex).
      • A combination of albuterol and ipratropium bromide (DuoNeb).
    • Long-acting beta-2 agonists (LABAs) can be used twice a day to maintain and manage your airways over the long term. To treat asthma, LABAs should be used in conjunction with an inhaled corticosteroid. Corticosteroids aid in lowering lung and airway edema. LABAs work well in treating asthma brought on by exercise as well.
    • There is a dry powder inhaler (DPI) for LABAs. Among these medications are:
      • Formoterol (Foradil).
      • Salmeterol (Serevent).
      • Combination drugs, such as budesonide and formoterol (Symbicort), fluticasone and vilanterol (Breo), and fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair).
  • Anticholinergics: Tiotropium bromide (Spiriva Respimat) and ipratropium bromide (Atrovent) are two types of anticholinergics that are available. They prevent acetylcholine’s effects. Your body produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
  • Anticholinergics are not drugs that provide instant relief. They do, however, work well to manage severe asthma symptoms.
    • There is an inhaler available for tiotropium bromide. The number of times each day you can use it depends on the type that your healthcare provider recommends.
    • Both a nebulizer solution and an inhaler are available for ipratropium bromide. It can be used as many as four times every day.
  • Theophylline: There is a pill called Uniphyl® that contains theophylline, which you take with water. It is taken once day to assist manage severe symptoms of asthma. Theophylline is no longer a recommended course of treatment.
  • You need to get blood tests when taking theophylline to make sure you’re getting the right dosage.


Overusing your bronchodilator can lead to decreased responsiveness to the medication and heightened sensitivity to COPD or asthma triggers, such as smoke, pollution, dust, and chemical odors. Furthermore, frequent use of steroid inhalers may elevate the risk of pneumonia or nontuberculous mycobacteria infections, especially for individuals aged 65 or older.


In acquiring the full dosage of your bronchodilator inhaler, it’s important to utilize it correctly. You can use your bronchodilator inhaler correctly by following these steps:

  • Give your inhaler ten to fifteen shakes. Check that the cap is securely placed.
  • Take off the cap.
  • Inhale deeply, and then exhale completely.
  • Cover the mouthpiece in your mouth.
  • Give the inhaler one downward push.
  • Inhale deeply and slowly through your mouth. You need to slow down your breathing if you hear a sound like a horn.
  • For ten seconds, hold your breath. To facilitate the medication’s entry into your lungs, count slowly.
  • Follow these instructions once more for every puff that your healthcare provider has prescribed. After each puff, give it a minute or so.
  • After you’re done, put the cap back on your inhaler.
  • Gargle with water or mouthwash after using a corticosteroid inhaler. Mouthwash rinsing helps minimize adverse effects.

Make sure you take your long-acting beta-2 agonist twice daily. You can apply it in the morning and again after six to eight hours.


Always adhere to your healthcare provider’s prescribed medication regimen. Should your symptoms persist despite bronchodilator use, promptly consult your healthcare provider. They can devise an optimal treatment plan, address any concerns you may have, and provide answers to your inquiries.

Should you encounter any respiratory issues such as breathing difficulties, coughing, or wheezing, seek guidance from your healthcare provider. Lung function tests can be conducted to assess your condition and determine if bronchodilator therapy is appropriate.

If you find yourself needing short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs) more than twice a week, it’s advisable to discuss this with your healthcare provider. Frequent SABA use exceeding twice weekly may indicate unstable asthma. Your healthcare provider may consider adjusting the dosage of any long-term control medications accordingly.