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Medically Approved

Albuterol metered aerosol side effects: A detailed guide

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Albuterol metered aerosol is prescribed for preventing and treating bronchospasm (sudden airway tightening that makes it hard to breathe). It’s a bronchodilator drug that may cause mild or serious side effects, including headache, fast heart rate, and dizziness.
Medically reviewed by Amber R. Watson, PharmD
Updated on May 2, 2023

Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved albuterol metered aerosol to:

This article describes possible side effects of albuterol metered aerosol. You’ll also find information on cost savings and coupon options for albuterol.

Albuterol metered aerosol is a generic version of the brand-name drugs ProAir HFA and Proventil-HFA. Albuterol also comes in other forms, including a solution used with a nebulizer. But these forms aren’t described in this article. To learn more about these forms, talk with your doctor.

You can explore this overview article to learn more about albuterol metered aerosol, including the drug’s uses, dosage, ways to save on cost, and more.

More common side effects of albuterol

Albuterol metered aerosol may cause mild or serious side effects. Below are some of the more common side effects of this medication.

Commonly reported side effects of albuterol metered aerosol include:

  • heart palpitations*
  • fast heart rate*
  • chest pain
  • dizziness*
  • headache

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of albuterol in detail” section below.

Mild side effects of albuterol

Albuterol may cause certain mild side effects. Usually, mild side effects are temporary and can be easily managed. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects that don’t go away or become bothersome.

Mild side effects of albuterol metered aerosol that occurred in studies include:

  • headache
  • chest pain
  • pain, such as in your ear, muscles, or bones
  • dizziness*
  • sore throat
  • stuffy, runny, or sore nose
  • nervousness
  • tremor
  • diarrhea
  • swollen tongue
  • anxiousness
  • shortness of breath*
  • mild allergic reaction*†

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of albuterol in detail” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible with albuterol metered aerosol. It wasn’t reported in the drug’s studies, but it has occurred since the drug was approved for use.

Albuterol metered aerosol may cause more mild side effects than those listed above. For details, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Serious side effects of albuterol

Albuterol may cause certain serious side effects. If you have any serious side effects from albuterol metered aerosol, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency or your side effects feel life threatening, take immediate action. Call 911, or a local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room.

After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. Visit MedWatch’s website if you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with albuterol metered aerosol.

Serious side effects of albuterol metered aerosol that occurred in studies include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of albuterol in detail” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible with albuterol metered aerosol. It wasn’t reported in the drug’s studies, but has been since the drug was approved for use.

Common questions about side effects of albuterol

Here are answers to some common questions about the side effects of albuterol metered aerosol. If you have other questions, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Are side effects of albuterol metered aerosol different than those of albuterol nebulizer?

They differ a little bit. Side effects of albuterol metered aerosol are mostly the same as those reported with albuterol nebulizer. A nebulizer is a small machine that turns liquid into a mist that you can inhale.

For example, both albuterol metered aerosol and albuterol nebulizer solution can cause:

  • tremors
  • dizziness
  • nervousness

But there are a few mild side effects reported in studies of albuterol nebulizer solution that weren’t reported in studies of albuterol metered aerosol. These include increased mucus production and insomnia (sleep problems).

Talk with your pharmacist or doctor if you have more questions about how these forms of albuterol compare.

How long do the side effects of albuterol last?

In most cases, side effects caused by albuterol are temporary. They should go away within a few minutes or hours after you take a dose. The drug isn’t expected to cause long lasting side effects.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects that don’t go away or bother you.

Will older adults have certain side effects with albuterol?

No, older adults aren’t expected to have different side effects from albuterol compared with other people. In general, “older adults” describes people ages 65 years and older.

That said, older adults may be at a higher risk of side effects from taking albuterol. This is because older adults are more likely to have heart or kidney problems. Having these problems increases the risk of side effects from albuterol.

If you’re an older adult, ask your doctor if your health history raises your risk of side effects from albuterol.

Can albuterol cause changes in blood pressure?

Yes, it’s possible for albuterol to cause changes in blood pressure.

Changes in blood pressure caused by albuterol should be mild and temporary in most cases. But blood pressure changes can sometimes be serious. This may be the case if you already have high blood pressure or another heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat.

If albuterol causes changes in your blood pressure that bother or affect you, your doctor will likely recommend you stop using the medication. They can suggest other treatments that may be safer for you instead.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about albuterol’s possible effects on blood pressure. You can also view “Heart-related side effects” in the “Side effects of albuterol in detail” section below to learn more.

Does albuterol cause long-term side effects?

No, long-term side effects aren’t expected with albuterol metered aerosol. In studies, specific side effects weren’t seen in people who had taken the drug for a long time. Long lasting side effects after treatment ended also weren’t reported.

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about possible long-term side effects with albuterol.

Coupon for albuterol

Visit this page to access Optum Perks coupons and get price estimates for albuterol when you use the coupons. These coupons can provide significant savings on your prescription costs. 

Note: Optum Perks coupons cannot be used with insurance copays or benefits.

Side effects of albuterol in detail

Below you’ll find details on some of the side effects of albuterol metered aerosol.

Paradoxical bronchospasm

In studies, paradoxical bronchospasm was rare in people using albuterol metered aerosol. This side effect may be serious or even life threatening.

With paradoxical bronchospasm, you have sudden airway tightening that makes it hard to breathe. And it happens immediately after using a dose of albuterol. It’s called “paradoxical” bronchospasm because albuterol is prescribed to treat bronchospasm. But in rare cases, the drug can also cause bronchospasm as a side effect.

Symptoms of paradoxical bronchospasm include any of the following immediately after using a dose of albuterol:

  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • wheezing

The risk for this side effect is higher when you first use a new albuterol aerosol canister after getting your prescription.

Ways to manage

If you have symptoms of paradoxical bronchospasm, immediately seek emergency medical help. Bronchospasm can be a life threatening emergency.

If you have this side effect, your doctor will likely have you stop taking albuterol. They can discuss other treatments that may be safer for you instead.

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Heart-related side effects

In studies, certain heart-related side effects were more common than others in people taking albuterol metered aerosol. These side effects may be serious.

For example, heart palpitations and fast heart rate were more common. But increased blood pressure was rare.

Increased blood pressure isn’t likely to cause symptoms. With heart palpitations or fast heart rate, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • fluttering or pounding heartbeat

Heart-related side effects caused by albuterol should be temporary and go away within a few minutes or hours. But changes to heart rate or blood pressure may be serious if you already have a heart condition. Examples include high blood pressure or heart disease.

Ways to manage

If you have symptoms of heart-related side effects, tell your doctor. If these symptoms are bothersome or long lasting, they’ll likely recommend you stop taking albuterol. They can discuss other treatments that may be safer for you instead.

Low blood potassium level

In studies, low blood potassium level was not reported in people using albuterol metered aerosol. Still, it has happened since the drug was approved for use.

This side effect is usually mild and temporary. It isn’t likely to cause symptoms, but it’s possible to experience some, such as:

  • weakness
  • muscle cramps
  • tiredness
  • confusion

In rare cases, changes in blood potassium can cause heart-related side effects. An example is an irregular heartbeat. If you already have a heart condition, a low blood potassium level could be serious.

Ways to manage

In most cases, low blood potassium caused by albuterol is temporary and goes away on its own. You may not notice any symptoms of it.

If you do have symptoms of a low blood potassium level, tell your doctor. You should also let your doctor know if you have heart-related side effects, as these can be a sign of a low blood potassium level. See the “Heart-related side effects” section directly above to learn more.

If you develop low blood potassium that causes symptoms or heart-related side effects, your doctor will likely recommend you stop taking albuterol. They can discuss other treatments that may be safer for you instead.

Allergic reaction

For some people, albuterol metered aerosol can cause an allergic reaction. This side effect wasn’t reported in the drug’s studies but has occurred since it was approved for use.

Symptoms can be mild or serious, and they may include:

  • itchiness
  • skin rash
  • swelling under the skin, usually affecting eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)

Ways to manage

For mild allergic reaction symptoms, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may recommend treatments to help manage your symptoms. They’ll also let you know whether you should keep taking the medication.

For severe allergic reaction symptoms, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms require immediate medical care because they can become life threatening. If you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to albuterol metered aerosol, your doctor may recommend taking a different medication instead.

Warnings for albuterol

Below are some factors you may want to discuss with your doctor before taking albuterol metered aerosol.

Warnings

It may not be safe for you to take albuterol metered aerosol if you have specific health conditions. These are sometimes called drug-condition interactions. Other things may also affect whether albuterol metered aerosol is a safe treatment option for you.

Before taking albuterol metered aerosol, tell your doctor about your health and medications you take. Things to consider include:

You should also tell your doctor if you’re taking certain medications, including:

Albuterol and pregnancy

In general, albuterol metered aerosol is considered safe to take during pregnancy. That said, check with your doctor about whether they feel it’s safe for you specifically.

Albuterol and breastfeeding

In general, albuterol metered aerosol is considered safe to take while breastfeeding. That said, check with your doctor about whether they feel it’s safe for you specifically.

Albuterol and alcohol

Albuterol metered aerosol is not known to interact with alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe to consume it during your treatment with albuterol metered aerosol.

What to ask your doctor

This article describes common and serious side effects of albuterol metered aerosol. If your doctor prescribes this medication, they can discuss possible side effects with you. Let your doctor know if you have concerns or questions about treatment with this medication.

Here’s a list of some possible questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • Does my health history increase my risk of side effects if I take albuterol?
  • How does my risk of side effects with albuterol aerosol inhaler compare with using albuterol solution for nebulizers?
  • Do any of my medications interact with albuterol and raise my risk of side effects?
  • Are there breathing exercises or other home remedies I can try if I feel nervous for a few minutes after using my albuterol inhaler?

Disclaimer: Optum Perks has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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