Bronchodilators are divided into short-acting or rescue inhalers including albuterol and metaproterenol and long-lasting medications such as Advair and salmeterol, according to WebMD. The quick-acting inhalers begin to bring relief of an asthma attack within minutes and provide help for several hours after use. Patients use long-lasting bronchodilators along with inhaled steroids, two times daily, for control of their symptoms.
Almost all patients with asthma use bronchodilators, reports WebMD. These medications open the airways to make breathing easier for the patient. They are available as pills, liquid and injectable forms, but inhaling the medication from a nebulizer or inhaler is the method most doctors recommend.
Good control of asthma using long-lasting medications helps to limit the number of times a patient needs to use the rescue inhaler, indicates WebMD. Patients who require the short-acting medication more than two times in a week do not have good control and should work with their doctor to make the necessary changes to the long-lasting medication for better control.
Bronchodilators cause side effects including nervousness, shakiness, difficulty sleeping and an increase in the heart rate, warns WebMD. Asthma medications can interfere with other medications a doctor might prescribe. Smoking can interfere with the way the bronchodilators work and often makes asthma symptoms worse.