Beta-agonists are bronchodilator medications that open breathing passages by relaxing the muscles in and around the bronchial airways that tighten during an asthma episode. Examples include: Albuterol, Proventil and Ventolin. Inhaled beta-agonists can relieve the symptoms of an asthma attack and block asthma symptoms that are brought on by exercise.
Side effects of these medications may include a rapid heart beat, feeling anxious and occasionally nausea. These side effects tend to leave as the body adjusts to the medicine.
Beta-agonists relieve symptoms, but they CANNOT reduce or prevent the swelling that causes airway inflammation. When you have to use a beta-agonist more than a few times a week, it could be a sign that the swelling in your airways is getting worse. You may need another kind of medicine, and you need to discuss this with your doctor.
Anticholinergics are another medicine which can relieve the symptoms of asthma or bronchitis. In the United States, Atrovent is the only hand held product available for use. For many patients, Atrovent is less likely to cause side effects of rapid heart beat or shakiness which is good. However, for some patients, this medication does not work as fast or as effectively as the Beta-agonists previously discussed.
One bronchodilator sold over the counter – Primatene mist-can help relieve asthma symptoms. Unfortunately Primatene mist (which contains adrenaline) has a high incidence of side effects and is usually not the product of choice for patients with asthma. In the event that you are needing this medication, because of the potential for severe side effects, you should consult with a doctor.