What is albuterol syrup used for?

Albuterol syrup is a bronchodilator medication used to treat breathing difficulties caused by asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases. It works by relaxing muscles in the airways to open them up and make breathing easier. Albuterol is one of the most commonly prescribed bronchodilators and is an important medication for managing asthma and COPD symptoms.

What conditions is albuterol syrup used for?


Albuterol is one of the preferred medications for treating acute asthma attacks and preventing exercise-induced asthma. It provides quick relief of asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscles around the airways. This allows more air to flow in and out of the lungs and makes breathing easier. Albuterol is also used as a long-term control medication to prevent asthma attacks and control persistent asthma symptoms.


Albuterol can provide symptom relief for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD causes narrowed airways that limit airflow and make breathing difficult. Albuterol helps relax the airway muscles, open up the airways, and improve breathing ability in people with COPD. It is often used prior to physical activity or as needed for COPD flare-ups.

Other lung diseases

In addition to asthma and COPD, albuterol may be used to treat acute symptoms that occur with other lung conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies, and cystic fibrosis. It can provide temporary relief of wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness caused by these conditions.

How does albuterol syrup work?

Albuterol is a type of medication called a bronchodilator. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways to open them up and make breathing easier.

Specifically, albuterol activates beta-2 receptors found in the muscles around airways. This causes the release of a molecule called cyclic AMP, which relaxes the airway muscles. This widens the airways, improves airflow, and reduces constriction.

The overall effect is that it becomes easier to breathe air in and out of the lungs. Albuterol starts working within 15 minutes after taking it and provides relief for 4 to 6 hours.

What are the benefits of using albuterol syrup?

Some key benefits of using albuterol syrup include:

  • Provides fast, effective relief of acute asthma and COPD symptoms
  • Lasts for 4-6 hours to treat intermittent symptoms
  • Helps keep airways open and improves breathing ability
  • Allows patients to be more active and participate in daily activities
  • Prevents exercise-induced asthma symptoms
  • Well-tolerated and safe when used as directed
  • Comes in liquid form, which is easy to swallow

Using albuterol syrup offers a more convenient way to manage asthma and COPD flares compared to inhalers. The liquid medicine gets absorbed quickly and starts working faster than tablet forms. This makes it a good option for both children and adults who have difficulty using inhalers.

How is albuterol syrup used?

Albuterol syrup is taken by mouth, typically after a meal. The medication comes in bottles with doses measured in teaspoons or milliliters.

The recommended dosing for albuterol syrup depends on the age of the person taking it:

  • Adults and children over 12 years old: 2 to 4 milligrams every 4 to 6 hours as needed. The maximum daily dose is 8 mg for adults.
  • Children 6 to 12 years old: 2 mg three to four times daily as needed. The maximum daily dose is 8 mg.
  • Children 2 to 5 years old: 1 mg three times a day. The maximum dose is 4 mg per day.

Patients should follow the dosing instructions provided by their doctor and the directions on the medication packaging. Taking too much albuterol can cause side effects.

Many people use albuterol syrup as needed for breathing difficulties rather than on a set schedule. It can provide quick relief of symptoms during an asthma attack or COPD flare-up. Using a spacer device with the syrup can optimize delivery of the medication for maximum benefit.

What are the side effects of albuterol syrup?

Albuterol syrup is generally safe when used as prescribed. However, some side effects can occur:

  • Nervousness, shaking, headache
  • Racing heartbeat, palpitations
  • Sleep problems, restlessness
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Muscle cramps, twitching
  • Dizziness

These side effects are usually mild and temporary. The most common ones involve feeling jittery, shaky, or a fast heartbeat. Taking albuterol with food can help prevent upset stomach. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help.

Rarely, albuterol can cause severe side effects like chest pain, uneven heartbeat, seizures, and allergic reactions. Seek medical help right away if any concerning or allergic reaction symptoms develop. Let your doctor know if side effects become bothersome. Your doctor may adjust the dosage or medication schedule to minimize side effects.

Precautions when taking albuterol syrup

There are some important precautions to keep in mind with albuterol:

  • Take exactly as prescribed and follow all dosage directions. Do not increase doses without medical approval.
  • Carry an inhaler for backup in case breathing suddenly worsens.
  • Do not stop using other asthma control medications unless advised by your doctor.
  • See your doctor promptly if your asthma symptoms are not controlled with your current treatment.
  • Let your doctor know if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, diabetes, thyroid problems, or osteoporosis.
  • Tell your doctor about any other medications, supplements, or herbal products you take.
  • Albuterol syrup can interact with certain medications, including beta blockers and diuretics.
  • Do not use albuterol if you are allergic to it or other related bronchodilators (e.g. levalbuterol).

Carefully reviewing medication instructions and having regular doctor follow-ups helps ensure albuterol syrup is used safely and effectively. Contact your doctor right away if you have concerns while taking this medication.

Who should not use albuterol syrup?

Albuterol is contraindicated (should not be used) in some people, including:

  • Those with a known allergy to albuterol or compounds closely related to it (e.g. levalbuterol). Signs of an allergic reaction can include rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, and trouble breathing.
  • People who have taken MAO inhibitor antidepressants within the last 2 weeks. Taking albuterol within 2 weeks of an MAOI could cause dangerous side effects.
  • Those with a heart condition like tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary insufficiency, or hypertension. Albuterol can worsen heart conditions.
  • People with hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Albuterol can affect blood sugar levels.
  • Those with seizures or a seizure disorder like epilepsy. Albuterol can lower the seizure threshold.
  • People with high potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia).

Always inform your doctor about any medical conditions before starting albuterol. People with certain heart diseases, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism, severe diabetes, seizures, or hyperkalemia may need to avoid albuterol due to risks.

Interactions with other medications

Albuterol can interact with certain other medications. It is important for doctors to know about all drugs and supplements their patient is using before prescribing albuterol.

Notable drug interactions can occur with:

  • Beta blockers – Used for conditions like high blood pressure. Albuterol opposes the effects, so should not be used together.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants – Increased risk of cardiovascular side effects.
  • Diuretics – Can increase the risk of low potassium levels when used with albuterol.
  • Digoxin – Can lead to increased digoxin levels in the blood.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors – Albuterol should not be used within 2 weeks of an MAOI.
  • Xanthine derivatives – Like theophylline. Increased risk of adverse effects.

Potassium levels should be monitored when using albuterol with diuretics. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any new medications, including OTC drugs and supplements, with albuterol.

Is albuterol syrup safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Albuterol has not been shown to cause significant safety concerns during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, as with any medication, it should only be used if the benefits outweigh potential risks.

Small amounts of albuterol pass into breast milk after use. But it is considered compatible with breastfeeding by major health organizations. Monitoring infants for increased heart rate, irritability, tremors, or other side effects is recommended.

Talk to your doctor about using albuterol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Generally, it should be continued to control asthma symptoms in pregnant women as uncontrolled asthma poses more risks to the baby. But your doctor may adjust the dosage as needed for safety.

How to get albuterol syrup

Albuterol is available by prescription only. It comes as both a liquid syrup and an inhaler. The syrup and inhaler forms work the same way in the body and are often used together.

To get albuterol syrup, you need a prescription from a healthcare provider like a doctor or nurse practitioner. They will assess your condition and determine if albuterol is appropriate for you.

Once you have a prescription, you can fill it at your local pharmacy. Both brand name and generic versions are available. The generic form is typically less expensive but medically equivalent. Make sure to follow the dosing instructions from your doctor and pharmacy.

The cost of albuterol varies depending on insurance coverage. With insurance, the out-of-pocket cost is often low. Some pharmaceutical companies also offer savings cards to reduce copays. Without insurance, the retail cost ranges from around $50 to over $100 per bottle.

Tips for taking albuterol syrup

Here are some useful tips for taking albuterol syrup:

  • Take the medicine at evenly spaced intervals and according to your doctor’s instructions for best asthma control.
  • Shake the bottle well before each dose to ensure proper dosing of the medication suspension.
  • Use a marked measuring spoon, cup, or oral syringe to measure out the correct dose.
  • Rinse mouth or have a drink of water after each dose to remove any aftertaste.
  • Keep track of when doses are taken and record any breathing symptoms or side effects.
  • Store albuterol syrup at room temperature away from excess heat or moisture.
  • Throw away any unused syrup after the expiration date printed on the bottle.
  • Always have a quick-relief inhaler on hand to treat sudden asthma flare-ups.

Taking albuterol syrup properly and as prescribed can help maximize its effectiveness for managing asthma and COPD symptoms.


Albuterol syrup is an important bronchodilator medication used for treating acute symptoms of asthma, COPD, and other lung diseases. It works by relaxing tightened airway muscles so that air can flow through the lungs more easily. Benefits of albuterol include fast relief of breathing difficulties, lasting 4-6 hours per dose.

Albuterol syrup is taken by mouth, typically 2 to 4 mg every 4-6 hours as needed. It starts working within 15 minutes. While generally safe when used correctly, albuterol syrup can cause side effects like shakiness, fast heartbeat, and jitteriness. Using a spacer and taking it after meals can help manage side effects.

People with heart disease, seizures, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism, or hyperkalemia should avoid albuterol due to risks. Checking for medication interactions and closely following dosing instructions reduces the chances of complications. Albuterol syrup requires a prescription and is considered compatible with pregnancy and breastfeeding under medical supervision. Following tips like taking doses evenly, measuring carefully, and having a rescue inhaler available allows patients to get the most out of this important asthma medicine.

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