What should I know before taking a bronchodilator?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) makes the following recommendations regarding bronchodilators:

  • Inhaled bronchodilators are preferred over oral.
  • Long-acting beta-agonists and inhaled anticholinergics are preferred over short-acting.
  • If a single bronchodilator does not improve symptoms, adding a second type may be considered.
  • Theophylline is not recommended unless other bronchodilators are not available or considered too expensive.

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition or find a doctor. 

Before taking a bronchodilator, you should know the following:

  • Bronchodilators are medications that are used to relax the bronchial airways when there is constriction that inhibits breathing. 
  • These medications will typically only improve breathing if narrowed or inflammed airways are the cause of the shortness of breath. 
  • Bronchodilators can have activating effects, meaning you may experience an elevated heart rate or increased "jitters" when you use a bronchodilator.

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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.