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What are the side effects of albuterol?

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Albuterol (medication that relaxes the smooth muscle cells in the bronchioles, dilating the air passages to the lungs and making breathing easier) may cause a headache, hoarseness, a cough, trembling hands and feet, and muscle, bone and/or back pain. Some people using it experience nausea, but an over-the-counter antacid may help relieve this. You also may experience poor sleep and nervousness. Some patients taking bronchodilators experience an increased heart rate and palpitations that last for a few minutes due to the medication's stimulating effects.

Rarely, albuterol inhalation causes wheezing and difficulty breathing immediately after use. If this happens, or if you develop lightheadedness, call your doctor immediately and don't use the medication again unless your doctor advises it.

Like most drugs, albuterol may cause side effects in some people. In rare cases, taking the drug may cause a severe allergic reaction that leads to difficulty breathing, swelling in the face or throat and hives. Other serious side effects are chest tightness, trouble breathing, heart palpitations, changes in blood pressure, seizures, confusion, blurred vision, buzzing in ears and muscle weakness. If these symptoms develop, get medical attention right away. Taking albuterol may also lead to a condition called paradoxical bronchospasm, which exacerbates breathing problems.

Other less serious side effects may include irregular or very fast heartbeat, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, changes in blood pressure, respiratory tract infections, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, nervousness, tremors, cough and stuffy or runny nose.

Other side effects are possible, so talk to your doctor if any new or unusual symptoms develop while taking albuterol.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.