Bronchodilators – relax and open the airways to relieve the noisy symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, choking and shortness of breath.

  • Quick-relief (short-acting) bronchodilators (beta2-agonists) relax the airways and make it easier to breathe within minutes. In addition, many people use short-acting bronchodilators to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB).

Some people mistakenly call these “rescue” medications but this is a life-threatening misunderstanding. Quick-relief bronchodilators should be used to relieve breathing at the first sign of symptoms – the earlier you use the medication, the less you are likely to need. 

If you need to use a quick-relief bronchodilator more than twice a week (except to prevent symptoms before exercise), that’s a sign of ongoing inflammation; ask your physician about anti-inflammatory medications.

    • albuterol (ProAir® HFA, ProAir® RespiClick, Proventil® HFA, Ventolin® HFA), levalbuterol (Xopenex®), pirbuterol, theophylline
  • Anticholinergics (also called muscaranic antagonists) relieve cough, sputum production, wheeze and chest tightness associated with chronic lung diseases, such as COPD

    • aclidinium (Tudorza™), ipratropium (Atrovent® HFA, Combivent®), tiotropium (Spiriva®), umiclidmium (Anoro™) 
  • Long-acting (12-hour) bronchodilators begin to work gradually and relieve noisy symptoms for up to 12 hours. FDA recommends these medications only as add-on therapy for those already using anti-inflammatory medication to treat asthma. Long-acting bronchodilators should not be used to treat sudden-onset asthma symptoms. Do not use more than once every 12 hours.

    • formoterol (Foradil®), indacaterol (Arcapta®), olodaterol (Striverdi®), salmeterol (Serevent®)

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