Salbutamol inhaler

Salbutamol is a reliever inhaler.

Make sure you know how to use the inhaler properly. If you are not sure, ask your nurse, pharmacist or doctor to show you.

If after using the inhaler your symptoms do not improve, contact your doctor for advice straightaway.

The most common side-effect is feeling shaky. This should soon pass.

Do not smoke. Smoking causes irritation to the lungs and will make your condition worse.

Type of medicine Bronchodilator (a short-acting beta2 agonist)
Used for Asthma and other airways-related problems
Also called Airomir®; AirSalb®; Asmasal Clickhaler®; Asmavent®; Easyhaler® Salbutamol; Pulvinal® Salbutamol; Salamol®; Salbulin®; Ventolin®
Available as Aerosol Inhaler; auto-inhaler; powder Inhaler

Salbutamol is called a bronchodilator medicine because it dilates (widens) your airways. It works by opening up the air passages in your lungs so that air can flow into your lungs more freely. This helps to relieve symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as coughing, wheezing and feeling breathless. It starts to work within a few minutes and the effect will last between 3-5 hours.

Salbutamol inhalers are referred to as 'reliever' inhalers or 'blue' inhalers. This is because they relieve symptoms of breathlessness, and the inhalers are usually blue in colour. Although they relieve breathlessness, they do not prevent the breathlessness from happening.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using a salbutamol inhaler it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding. This is because it is particularly important that your breathing is well controlled if you are pregnant.
  • If you have an overactive thyroid gland.
  • If you have heart or blood vessel problems, or if you have an irregular heartbeat.
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes (high sugar levels in your blood).
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before using your inhaler, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about salbutamol, diagrams to remind you how to use and clean your inhaler device, and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from using it.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and make sure you know how to use your inhaler properly. There are several types of inhaler device. Some of these devices create a spray which you inhale, others are activated when you breathe in. If you are not sure how to use the device you have been given, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you.
  • You will receive a written asthma action plan from your asthma nurse or doctor which will tell you how many inhalations (puffs) to use for each dose, and the maximum number of inhalations you should use in 24 hours. If you do not get relief from your symptoms after using the salbutamol inhaler, you must contact your doctor for advice straightaway.
  • Your doctor may give you a spacer device to use with the salbutamol inhaler particularly if you struggle to co-ordinate breathing in and pressing the inhaler device. Spacer devices are also useful for giving salbutamol to young children. The device helps to make sure that the medicine travels right into the lungs. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on how to use the spacer device with the inhaler.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor and asthma clinic. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis.
  • Make sure that you keep your salbutamol inhaler with you all the time in case you need to use it. It should provide you with several hours' relief. If at any time you feel it is not working, you should let your asthma nurse/doctor know straightaway.
  • If you are using other inhalers at the same time, use the salbutamol inhaler first and then wait for a few minutes before using the other inhalers. Salbutamol opens your air passages to allow the other inhalers to work more effectively.
  • Carefully read your asthma action plan from your nurse or doctor. It will tell you how to manage your asthma and it will also say what to do if you have an asthma attack.
  • If at any time your breathing gets worse, continue to use your inhalers but also contact your doctor or nurse for advice straightaway. Also, if you are needing to use the maximum number of salbutamol puffs every day (or if you continue to have symptoms despite using the maximum amount), you must let your doctor know about this too, as you may require additional treatment.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking causes irritation and damage to the lungs, and will make your condition worse. Speak with your doctor or practice nurse for further advice if you are having difficulty in stopping smoking.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with salbutamol. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your inhaler. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common salbutamol side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people) What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling shaky This feeling should soon pass
Headache Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor
Nervous tension, muscle cramps, being aware of your heartbeat If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor or clinic

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the inhaler, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3524 (v26)
Last Checked:
28/04/2014
Next Review:
27/04/2017
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