Salbutamolex, also known as albuterol and marketed as Ventolin among other names, is a medication that opens up the medium and large airways in the lungs. It is used to treat asthma including asthma attacks, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It may also be used to treat high blood potassium levels. Salbutamol is usually used with an inhaler or nebulizer but is also available as a pill and intravenous solution. Onset of action of the inhaled version is typically within 15 minutes and lasts for two to six hours.
Common side effects include shakiness, headache, fast heart rate, dizziness, and feeling anxious. Serious side effects may include worsening bronchospasm, irregular heartbeat, and low blood potassium levels. It can be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but safety is not entirely clear. It is a short-acting β2 adrenergic receptor agonist which works by causing airway smooth muscles to relax.
Salbutamol is typically used to treat bronchospasm (due to any cause—allergic asthma or exercise-induced), as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is also one of the most common medicines used in rescue inhalers (short-term bronchodilators to alleviate asthma attacks).
As a β2 agonist, salbutamol also has use in obstetrics. Intravenous salbutamol can be used as a tocolytic to relax the uterine smooth muscle to delay premature labor. While preferred over agents such as atosiban and ritodrine, its role has largely been replaced by the calcium channel blocker nifedipine, which is more effective, better tolerated, and administered orally.
Salbutamol has been used to treat acute hyperkalemia, as it stimulates potassium flow into cells, thus lowering the potassium in the blood.
The most common side effects are fine tremor, anxiety, headache, muscle cramps, dry mouth, and palpitation. Other symptoms may include tachycardia, arrhythmia, flushing of the skin, myocardial ischemia (rare), and disturbances of sleep and behaviour. Rarely occurring, but of importance, are allergic reactions of paradoxical bronchospasms, urticaria (hives), angioedema, hypotension, and collapse. High doses or prolonged use may cause hypokalemia, which is of concern especially in patients with renal failure and those on certain diuretics and xanthine derivatives.
Warnings: Keep out of reach of children. For adults only.