What Is a Bronchodilator and How Does It Work?


Quick Answer

A bronchodilator is a medication to treat asthma, and it works by opening up the airways, according to WebMD. There are both short- and long-acting bronchodilators on the market, and both serve different purposes.

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Full Answer

A short-acting bronchodilator is a quick-acting medication that helps to relieve symptoms of asthma by quickly opening the airways, explains WebMD. People use these rescue medications for treating sudden asthma symptoms, and the action of the medication typically begins within minutes after inhalation. The effects of the medication may last for up to four hours. People may also use these quick-acting bronchodilators before exercise as they can prevent asthma due to exercise.

A long-acting bronchodilator helps to control asthma, but does not offer quick relief, states WebMD. A person must also use this type of bronchodilator in conjunction with steroids to control asthma on a long-term basis. People use these bronchodilators two times a day, and common brands include Advair, Symbicort, Serevent, Perforomist and Foradil.

Those who use bronchodilators may experience side effects such as a nervous or shaky feeling, claims WebMD. Other side effects of bronchodilators include an increase in heart rate, trouble sleeping, upset stomach and muscle aches. Bronchodilators are available in many forms, including tablets, liquids or injections, but the most common are bronchodilators that patients inhale.

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