Albuterol is a common asthma and COPD medication that helps open up the airways by relaxing the muscles around them. While it is generally considered safe when used as prescribed, there are some potential side effects to be aware of.
What are the Most Common Albuterol Side Effects?
Some of the most frequently reported side effects of albuterol are:
- Shakiness or tremors
- Fast heart rate or palpitations
- Irritability or nervousness
- Dry mouth
These effects are usually mild and tend to go away within a few hours after taking the medication. The shakiness and fast heartbeat are caused by albuterol stimulating beta-receptor cells in the body. The stimulation helps relax the airway muscles but can also affect other muscles and increase heart rate in the process.
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Why Does Albuterol Cause Dry Mouth?
In addition to the common side effects above, many people notice their mouth becomes dry after using their albuterol inhaler. This dry mouth side effect occurs because albuterol is classified as an anticholinergic drug.
Anticholinergic medications like albuterol block the action of acetylcholine in the body. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that activates salivary glands and helps produce saliva. When its action is inhibited by albuterol, the glands produce less saliva, leading to a temporary dry mouth sensation.
The dry mouth usually goes away within a few hours as the albuterol leaves the system. But the decreased saliva production can last as long as the medication remains active in the body. Using a product like lubricity, which is a flavorless, odorless solution that provides a soothing, moist feeling for up to 4 hours per use when used as directed, can help alleviate the dry mouth symptoms temporarily until the albuterol side effects wear off.
How Long Does the Albuterol Dry Mouth Last?
Albuterol has a relatively short half-life of just 4 to 6 hours in the body. This means it takes about 4-6 hours for the concentration of the drug in your system to be reduced by half after taking a dose.
So if dry mouth is an annoying side effect for you, it should resolve within 4-6 hours after inhaling your albuterol. The duration can vary slightly from person to person depending on metabolism and other factors.
The dry mouth may last longer if you are taking albuterol frequently or using a nebulizer, which can increase systemic absorption. The extended-release tablets can also cause dry mouth to persist for up to 12 hours.
Drinking more fluids and chewing sugar-free gum can help provide relief and generate more saliva while experiencing albuterol dry mouth. If bothersome, talk to your doctor about alternative medications or ways to manage this side effect.
Tips for Reducing Albuterol Side Effects
In addition to being aware of the common and temporary side effects, there are some other ways you can prevent or minimize adverse reactions when using your albuterol inhaler:
- Use a spacer with your inhaler to help ensure you get the full medication dose directly to your lungs. This can reduce side effects.
- Rinse your mouth out after inhaling to wash away any leftover medication that may get absorbed.
- Try not to take albuterol within a few hours of bedtime as it can cause restlessness.
- Speak with your doctor about the optimal frequency and dosing to effectively control symptoms while minimizing side effects.
- Notify your doctor if you experience any concerning, prolonged, or severe reactions.
While albuterol side effects are usually not serious, being informed about what to expect can help you handle them properly. Pay attention to your body’s response anytime you start a new medication and reach out to your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns.