Bronchodilators (e.g. Ventolin, Proventil, Maxair, and Xopenex) are generally classified as asthma drugs, but they are often used to treat allergic reaction especially when respiratory symptoms become severe. The type of bronchodilators used for allergic reactions are short-acting. Meaning, they are used for quick relief or as a rescue medication before the patient is taken to a healthcare facility for further treatments. On the other hand, long-acting bronchodilators are used for controlling asthma. Bronchodilators are typically used in conjunction with steroids for a better therapeutic response.
How do bronchodilators work?
Bronchodilators act on bronchial muscles, which control the diameter of the airways. The problem with allergies and their accompanying inflammatory reactions is that the bronchial muscles tighten around the airways, making breathing a very difficult task. Bronchodilators relax the bronchial muscles so they loosen up or “dilate” and allow the airways to expand and take in more air, thus improving breathing. The effect is rapid but does not last for an extended period of time, so the patient must be brought to a medical facility immediately for other treatments.
Bronchodilators also help clear mucus that has accumulated in the lungs. Mucus, when in excess, can also block the airways and impede normal breathing. When bronchial muscles loosen and the airways open, mucus can move more freely and it can be expelled more easily out of the lungs.
How are bronchodilators administered?
Bronchodilators are usually given in aerosol or inhaler form because this allows for immediate absorption of the medication. Bronchodilators may also be given in syrup (for children) or tablet/pill (for adults) form. However, syrups and pills are commonly used for people suffering from chronic asthma and are not used in allergic reactions.
Generally, one or two puffs from an inhaler is enough to relieve respiratory symptoms like chest tightening and wheezing associated with mild to moderate allergic attacks. More puffs are necessary when symptoms become severe. It is best to consult first with a physician before using aerosol bronchodilators because every patient has a unique dosage requirement. Some people may only need one puff while others may need more than three.
What are the common side effects of bronchodilators?
Because these medications stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to relax the bronchial muscles, some side effects may result from the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Such side effects include increased heart rate or palpitations, nervousness or a shaky feeling, and sleeping problems. In very few cases, bronchodilators may cause muscles aches or cramps and gastrointestinal symptoms like an upset stomach.