What You Didn't Know About Bronchodilators

What You Didn't Know About Bronchodilators

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and asthma are lung conditions that constrict your bronchi or airways. A bronchodilator can relieve that frightening symptom by relaxing the muscle bands surrounding your bronchi so you can breathe easily. 

Bronchodilators are just one of the many treatments we offer at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates. Our expansive team of board-certified specialists provides comprehensive care for our patients experiencing lung problems. 

Here, we offer a deeper explanation of bronchodilators and how they can help you.

Bronchodilator basics

A bronchodilator is simply a medication that dilates or expands your airways so you can breathe better. When the muscles relax and stop constricting your bronchi, air flows more freely, and you can easily expel mucus by coughing. 

Bronchodilators come with various delivery systems:

We can help you decide which method is right for you. Although bronchodilators are not steroids, they can be used in conjunction with steroid treatments. 

How long do bronchodilators last?

Your bronchodilator’s effectiveness depends on several factors, including your condition's severity and your medication’s dosage. Another factor is the form of bronchodilators you use.

Short-acting bronchodilators

When you have an acute asthma attack, you need medication that kicks in quickly. Short-acting bronchodilators stop sudden symptoms on the spot, earning them the nickname “rescue inhalers.” 

They come in a handheld canister with a mouthpiece that delivers a steady dose of medication under urgent conditions.

Long-acting bronchodilators

Long-acting bronchodilators aren’t for emergencies; rather, they help you prevent asthma attacks by keeping your airways open for up to 12 hours. 

Types of bronchodilators

Depending on your needs, we may prescribe one of two types of bronchodilators. 

Beta-2 agonists

Beta-2 agonists mirror the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine and attach themselves to receptors in your airways’ muscles, causing them to relax. Short-acting beta-2 agonists, such as albuterol and levalbuterol, work quickly and last for 4-6 hours. 

Long-acting beta-2 agonists like salmeterol and formoterol taken twice daily allow you to maintain open airways, especially when used in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid.


Another approach is to use an anticholinergic medication that blocks acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in your body. Depending on which brand you use, you take the anticholinergic either twice or four times daily to prevent severe asthma symptoms.

How to use a bronchodilator inhaler

Using a bronchodilator inhaler is easy. We go over the procedure with you, so you have it down pat when needed in an emergency:

  1. Shake it well
  2. Breathe in deeply and exhale completely
  3. Place the mouthpiece over your mouth
  4. Press down
  5. Slowly breathe in 
  6. Hold your breath for 10 seconds

When used as directed, bronchodilators are safe and effective. But over time, you may become desensitized to the effects or find that you’re more sensitive to your asthma triggers, such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes. 

We monitor you carefully to ensure your treatment works for you. 

If you’re suffering from asthma, emphysema, or COPD, call us for a consultation or reach out to us online. We perform a complete examination to diagnose your pulmonary condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

We have offices in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Pomona, Goshen, and Fishkill, New York, and in Englewood, New Jersey.

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