Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023

Albuterol sulfate is a drug that is inhaled to help with symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.1

People with COPD may develop airways that become irritated and inflamed. This can cause the muscles to tighten up suddenly, which can make it hard to breathe. This sudden muscle tightening is called an acute exacerbation or flare-up. Albuterol sulfate can provide quick relief for flare-ups.1

How does albuterol work?

Albuterol sulfate can provide quick relief for breathing symptoms caused by COPD. Albuterol sulfate is a short-acting beta-agonist (SABA). SABAs work quickly to relax the muscles surrounding the airways. They are often used when you need quick relief from sudden breathing problems.1,2

Albuterol sulfate starts to work within 5 minutes. The effects can last for 3 to 6 hours.1,2


Albuterol sulfate is sold under a few different brand names, including:3

  • ProAir HFA®
  • ProAir RespiClick®
  • Proventil HFA®
  • Ventolin HFA®
  • Accuneb®

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of albuterol sulfate include:1

  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Albuterol sulfate also may cause serious side effects. Call your doctor right away if you experience:1

  • Worsened difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Symptoms of an allergic reaction (itchy skin, rash, throat, or skin swelling)

These are not all the possible side effects of albuterol sulfate. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking albuterol sulfate. You should also call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking albuterol sulfate.

Other things to know

If your symptoms get worse over a few hours or days, call your doctor. You may need additional treatment.1

Albuterol sulfate may affect other drugs you are taking. This can cause serious side effects. Tell your doctor if you are taking:1

  • Other inhaled drugs
  • Blood pressure medicine
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Heart medicine
  • Antidepressants

Albuterol sulfate is frequently used during pregnancy. But there are no studies on the effects of albuterol sulfate during pregnancy in humans. Talk to your doctor before taking albuterol sulfate while pregnant or breastfeeding.1

Before beginning treatment for COPD, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of albuterol.

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