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Living with Salbutamol: Your Questions Answered

Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Questions Regarding how to Use Salbutamol

Salbutamol is a commonly prescribed medication used to relieve the symptoms of asthma, COPD, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses. It usually comes in a blue or blue-green inhaler.

If you use or someone you care about uses salbutamol, you probably have many questions about what it is, how it works, and whether it’s safe to use with alcohol or during pregnancy.

In this article, we’ve gathered the most common questions people ask about salbutamol and put together a handy list of FAQs about this very common drug.

The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications or have any existing medical conditions.

  1. What is salbutamol? Is it a steroid? How does salbutamol work?
  2. What are the side effects of salbutamol?
  3. Does salbutamol have any long-term side effects?
  4. Does salbutamol expire? Is it safe to use expired salbutamol?
  5. Can I take salbutamol while pregnant or breastfeeding?
  6. Can I drink alcohol while taking salbutamol?

1. What is salbutamol? Is it a steroid? How does salbutamol work?

Salbutamol (also called albuterol or Ventolin) is a type of medication used to relieve symptoms of asthma and COPD, such as coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. It is also used for other lung diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.

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Salbutamol is not a steroid. Rather, it is a beta-2-agonist, which means that it stimulates receptors in the lungs to relax the muscles of the airways. This helps open up the airways and make it easier to breathe.

It is usually given in an inhaler, which produces a fine mist or spray of medication for you to breathe into your lungs. It is sometimes given as tablets or as a syrup if necessary.

Salbutamol is the generic name for the drug. Another generic name for it is albuterol (mainly used in the US). It is commonly sold under the brand name Ventolin, amongst many others such as ProAir, Airomir, and Easyhaler.

2. What are the side effects of salbutamol?

Salbutamol is very safe when used properly, and has very few side effects. You may experience the following temporarily:

  • Heart beating quickly for a short while
  • Feeling shaky
  • Headache

These side effects are not dangerous and should go away quickly. If they don’t or if they bother you, talk to a doctor or pharmacist.

If you experience the following, tell a doctor immediately:

  • Severe dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain or weakness, muscle cramps, or an abnormal heartbeat – these may be signs of low potassium levels

It is also important to be aware of the signs of an allergic reaction. If you experience an allergic reaction to salbutamol you must see a doctor immediately.

Signs of a serious allergic reaction include:

  • Skin rash – for example itchy, red, or swollen skin
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Trouble breathing or talking
  • Swollen mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat

3. Does salbutamol have any long-term side effects?

No. Salbutamol is very safe and there’s no evidence that there are any long-term side effects, even if you use it for many years.

4. Does salbutamol expire? Is it safe to use expired salbutamol?

Yes, salbutamol does expire. Expired salbutamol may be less effective, so you should not rely on it. Always check the expiration date on your inhaler, and make sure to replace your inhaler before it expires.

Do not use expired salbutamol unless it is an emergency situation (i.e. you are currently experiencing an asthma attack) and you have no other alternative. You should then see a doctor immediately and replace the expired inhaler with a new one as soon as you can.

5. Can I take salbutamol while pregnant or breastfeeding?

This is something that you must discuss with your doctor or health professional. Always tell your doctor if you are taking medications and have become pregnant.

Generally, it’s thought to be safe to use salbutamol during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you have asthma and are planning to become pregnant, it is important that your asthma is well-controlled, and doctors will generally recommend that you continue with salbutamol during pregnancy. Asthma attacks can prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen, which can be very dangerous for the baby. In most cases, the benefit of staying on salbutamol to control your asthma far outweighs any risk of salbutamol harming the baby. However, this is something that you should discuss with your doctor.

Salbutamol is also generally thought to be safe to use during breastfeeding – the amount of salbutamol which passes into breast milk is so small that it’s unlikely to harm the baby. Talk to your doctor if you are taking salbutamol and plan to breastfeed your baby.

6. Can I drink alcohol while taking salbutamol?

It is generally safe to have alcohol with salbutamol.

However, it may be wise to stay away from alcohol regardless – many people living with asthma find that alcohol triggers their symptoms, or makes their asthma worse. According to a survey by Asthma UK, 75% of people with asthma say that alcohol triggers their symptoms. This is thought to be due to substances in alcoholic drinks, for example, sulphites in wine.

Talk to your doctor for advice about drinking alcohol while on medication.


The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications or have any existing medical conditions.

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