Ventolin (salbutamol) is a bronchodilator that relaxes muscles in the airways and increases air flow to the lungs.
What is Ventolin?
- Salbutamol is called a bronchodilator medicine because it dilates (widens) your airways. It works by opening up the air passages in your lungs so that air can flow into your lungs more freely. This helps to relieve symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as coughing, wheezing and feeling breathless. It starts to work within a few minutes and the effect will last between 3-5 hours.
- Salbutamol inhalers are referred to as 'reliever' inhalers or 'blue' inhalers. This is because they relieve symptoms of breathlessness, and the inhalers are usually blue in colour. Although they relieve breathlessness, they do not prevent the breathlessness from happening.
Before using a salbutamol inhaler
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken.
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding. This is because it is particularly important that your breathing is well controlled if you are pregnant.
- If you have an overactive thyroid gland.
- If you have heart or blood vessel problems, or if you have an irregular heartbeat.
- If you have high blood pressure.
- If you have diabetes (high sugar levels in your blood).
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to use a salbutamol inhaler
- Before using your inhaler, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about salbutamol, diagrams to remind you how to use and clean your inhaler device, and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from using it.
- Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and make sure you know how to use your inhaler properly. There are several types of inhaler device. Some of these devices create a spray which you inhale, others are activated when you breathe in. If you are not sure how to use the device you have been given, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you.
- You will receive a written asthma action plan from your asthma nurse or doctor which will tell you how many inhalations (puffs) to use for each dose, and the maximum number of inhalations you should use in 24 hours. If you do not get relief from your symptoms after using the salbutamol inhaler, you must contact your doctor for advice straightaway.
- Your doctor may give you a spacer device to use with the salbutamol inhaler particularly if you struggle to co-ordinate breathing in and pressing the inhaler device. Spacer devices are also useful for giving salbutamol to young children. The device helps to make sure that the medicine travels right into the lungs. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on how to use the spacer device with the inhaler.
Can salbutamol inhalers cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with salbutamol. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your inhaler. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
- Feeling shaky
- Nervous tension, muscle cramps, being aware of your heartbeat
How to store salbutamol inhalers
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor and asthma clinic. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis.
- Make sure that you keep your salbutamol inhaler with you all the time in case you need to use it. It should provide you with several hours' relief. If at any time you feel it is not working, you should let your asthma nurse/doctor know straightaway.
- If you are using other inhalers at the same time, use the salbutamol inhaler first and then wait for a few minutes before using the other inhalers. Salbutamol opens your air passages to allow the other inhalers to work more effectively.
- Carefully read your asthma action plan from your nurse or doctor. It will tell you how to manage your asthma and it will also say what to do if you have an asthma attack.
- If at any time your breathing gets worse, continue to use your inhalers but also contact your doctor or nurse for advice straightaway. Also, if you are needing to use the maximum number of salbutamol puffs every day (or if you continue to have symptoms despite using the maximum amount), you must let your doctor know about this too, as you may require additional treatment.
- Do not smoke. Smoking causes irritation and damage to the lungs, and will make your condition worse. Speak with your doctor or practice nurse for further advice if you are having difficulty in stopping smoking.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What other drugs will affect Ventolin?
Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially:
- a diuretic (water pill);
- digoxin (digitalis, Lanoxin);
- a beta-blocker such as atenolol (Tenormin, Tenoretic), carvedilol (Coreg), labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate), metoprolol (Dutoprol, Lopressor, Toprol), nadolol (Corgard), nebivolol (Bystolic), propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran), sotalol (Betapace), and others;
- an antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil, Vanatrip, Limbitrol), doxepin (Sinequan, Silenor), nortriptyline (Pamelor), and others;
- an MAO inhibitor such as furazolidone (Furoxone), isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), or tranylcypromine (Parnate); or
- other bronchodilators such as levalbuterol (Xopenex), pirbuterol (Maxair), terbutaline (Brethine, Bricanyl), salmeterol (Advair, Serevent), metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel), or isoproterenol (Isuprel Mistometer).
This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with Ventolin. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.