Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Albuterol side effects: What's normal?

I'm taking albuterol for mild allergic asthma. Although the albuterol seems to help my symptoms, it affects my mood and ability to concentrate. Is there another medication I can switch to?

Updated: 10-18-2011

Answer

Albuterol is commonly used for short-term relief of asthma symptoms. A type of medication known as a short-acting bronchodilator, it eases symptoms by opening the airways during an asthma flare-up.

Albuterol is usually given with a metered dose inhaler (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, others) and sometimes in tablet or liquid form. Albuterol side effects can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

More-serious — though less common — side effects include:

  • Tremor
  • Increased or irregular heart rate

Albuterol side effects are worse with the liquid or tablet form than with the inhaled form. Also, the risk of albuterol side effects increases with higher doses.

To ease medication side effects, you may need to try a metered dose inhaler if you are taking the liquid or tablet form. Or it may be worthwhile to try a different quick-relief medication, such as the short-acting bronchodilator levalbuterol (Xopenex) or pirbuterol (Maxair).

If you use albuterol three or more times a week or have severe asthma symptoms, you probably need to take a long-term asthma medication to better control your asthma. With asthma under better control, you won't need to use albuterol or another quick-relief medication as often.

Carefully track your asthma, and check with your doctor about any changes that may be needed. Avoid any known asthma triggers. Work with your doctor to make sure you're using the right type and dose of medication to keep your symptoms — and medication side effects — under control.

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