Short-Acting Rescue Inhalers
Also called short-acting beta2 bronchodilators, these medications quickly relax your airways during an asthma attack, enabling you to begin breathing. Because their therapeutic effect is cleared out of your body quickly, their effects last only three to four hours, according to eHealthMD. These medications include albuterol (Ventolin and Proventil), terbutaline (Brethaire and Bricanyl), pirbuterol (Maxair) and bitolterol (Tornalate).
Side effects of these medications include appetite changes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach pain, belching, gas, dry mouth, gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, constipation, oral fungal infections, and throat or mouth irritation. Nervous system side effects can include dizziness, vertigo, headache, lightheadedness, anxiety, drowsiness, tension, tremors, fatigue, weakness, nervousness, unstable emotions, restlessness, aggression, hyperactivity, excitement, sleeplessness, agitation, irritability, shakiness and nightmares. Respiratory side effects can include bronchospasm, breathing difficulty, nasal congestion, respiratory infections, bronchitis, lower respiratory infections, increased mucous discharge, wheezing, coughing, sinus headache, nosebleeds, hoarseness, particularly in pediatric use, chest discomfort, runny nose, viral infection, sneezing and a worsening of asthma symptoms. Circulatory system side effects can include blood pressure changes, changes in heart rhythm, pounding heartbeat, irregular pulse and chest pain. Skin side effects may include hives, flushing or pallor, sweating, eczema, skin inflammation and pain at the injection site, according to Health Care Tips. Other side effects can include unusual taste in the mouth, stiffness, muscle cramps, painful menstruation, tooth discoloration or pain, flu-like symptoms, general body discomfort, back, joint, arm, neck, shoulder or chest pain, low potassium levels, localized achiness, urinary tract infections, allergic reactions, fever, accidental injury, decreased sensitivity to stimulation, leg cramps, chills, migraine, fainting, abnormal lab tests, abnormal skin sensations, itchy eyes, eye inflammation and sweating.
Contraindications: No well-controlled, adequate studies exist for pregnant women. These medications should only be used when needed and the benefits to the mother outweigh any potential risks to the fetus. Researchers do not know if these medications are present in breast milk. Talk to your doctor about using these medications before you start breast feeding your infant. In children younger than 12 years of age, the safety of albuterol, pirbuterol, bitolterol and terbutaline have not been established. For Ventolin, the safety of this medication has not been established for children less than 4 years old, according to Health Care Tips.
Some of these medications contain sulfites, which can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.