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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - quick-relief drugs

Alternate Names

COPD - quick-relief drugs

Description

Quick-relief drugs for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) work fast to help you breathe better. You take them when you are coughing or wheezing, and you are having trouble breathing.

These drugs are also called "rescue" drugs. These drugs help relax the muscles of your airways.

You and your doctor can make a plan for the quick-relief drugs that work for you. This plan will include when you should take them and how much you should take.

Take enough with you when you travel. Plan ahead. Make sure you do not run out.

Quick-relief Beta-agonist Inhalers

Quick-relief beta-agonists help you breathe better by relaxing the muscles of your airways. They are short-acting, which means they stay in your system only for a short time.

Some people take them just before exercising. Ask your doctor if you should do this.

If you need to use these drugs more than three times a week, or if you use more than one canister a month, your COPD probably is not under control. You should call your doctor.

Kinds of Quick-relief Beta-agonists

Some kinds of quick-relief beta-agonists are:

  • Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
  • Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
  • Pirbuterol (Maxair)
  • Terbutaline (Brethine, Brethaire, and Bricanyl)
  • Bitolterol (Tornalate)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex)

Side effects might include:

  • Anxiety
  • Tremor
  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats. Call your doctor right away if you have this side effect.

Oral Steroids

Oral steroids are drugs you take by mouth, as pills, capsules, or liquids. You use them when you have an asthma attack that is not going away.

Your doctor will tell you how long you need to take these drugs. Most times it will be 3 to 10 days. Sometimes you might have to take them for longer.

Some kinds of oral steroids are:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Methylprednisolone

References

Shapiro, SD, Reilly JJ Jr., Rennard SI. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In: Mason: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. 2010;Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 39.

Wilt TJ, Niewoehner D, MacDonald R, Kane RL. Management of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review for a clinical practice guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:141.


Review Date: 5/20/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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