Page header image

Bronchodilator: Short-Acting Beta2-Agonist

What does this drug do?

Short-acting beta 2-agonists (SABAs) are also called quick-relief, reliever, or rescue medicines. They work fast to relax the muscles of the airways. They also prevent tightening of the muscles around the airways (bronchospasm) caused by asthma triggers such as pollens, animal dander, exercise, cold air, and air pollutants.

This medicine is used to treat acute asthma attacks.

What are other names for this medicine?

Some other names for SABAs are albuterol (AccuNeb, Proventil HFA, ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA), levalbuterol (Xopenex, Xopenex HFA), and pirbuterol (Maxair, Maxair Autohaler).

Combivent and DuoNeb contain both a SABA (albuterol) and an anticholinergic (ipratropium bromide).

How is it taken?

This medicine can be inhaled using:

  • a nebulizer that produces a fine mist
  • a metered-dose inhaler (MDI)
  • Maxair Autohaler that automatically sprays the medicine when your child inhales through the mouthpiece
  • a dry powder device (Ventolin Rotacaps).

What is the usual dose?

Nebulizer: Albuterol comes in 3 ml vials or a 0.5% solution. The most common nebulizer doses for albuterol are 1.25 mg, 2.5 mg, or 5 mg (vial) or 0.25 to .5 ml of the 0.5% solution diluted with 2 ml of sterile saline (salt water). Albuterol can be added to budesonide (Pulmicort) instead of saline in the nebulizer. Levalbuterol (Xopenex) comes in premixed vials. The suggested dose is 0.63 or 0.125 mg in 3 ml of saline.

MDI: The most common dose for an MDI is 2 puffs. Do not use more often than every 4 hours without approval from your child's healthcare provider. Call your provider if your child needs a dose more than every 4 hours. Always use the MDI with a valved holding chamber so that more medicine reaches the lungs.

Your prescribed dose of inhaled _____________________ is _______ ml mixed with ______________ and given by nebulizer ____ times a day (about every __________hours) for _______days.


______ puffs of ____________________ inhaled from an MDI using a spacer ____ times a day (about every ________hours) or as needed for asthma symptoms.

What side effects can this drug cause?

The most common side effects are jitteriness and an increased heart rate.

What special instructions should be followed?

Do not increase the number of treatments to greater than ________ within a 24-hour period without checking with your healthcare provider. If it seems like your child needs more treatments because the asthma symptoms are not helped by the medicine, call your health care provider.

Do not use Xopenex unless the solution is colorless. Store unused vials in the foil pouch provided.

Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-01-09
Last reviewed: 2008-12-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
2009 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image