Bronchodilator: Long-Acting Beta2-Agonist

What does this drug do?

Long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) help prevent asthma symptoms by relaxing the smooth muscles around the airways. These medicines are long-term control medicines, also called controllers. They can prevent the tightening of the muscles around the airways (bronchospasm) caused by asthma triggers such as pollens, exercise, cold air, and air pollutants.

LABAs can improve lung function and decrease symptoms and the need for quick relief medicines in people who need more than low dose inhaled steroids alone. LABAs should not be used alone for long-term asthma control. They should be used along with inhaled steroids. LABAs may increase the risk of asthma-related death. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

LABAs are used to provide control, not quick relief, of asthma symptoms. These drugs take longer to start to work (10 to 20 minutes), but their benefits last longer (up to 12 hours). These medicines are not to be used as rescue medicines or as the only controller medicine for long-term asthma control. A quick relief medicine such as albuterol should be used to treat acute asthma attacks.

What are other names for this medicine?

Other names for this medicine are salmeterol (Serevent or Serevent Diskus) and formoterol (Foradil Aerolizer). The ADVAIR Diskus and Advair HFA combine a LABA (salmeterol) with the anti-inflammatory steroid (fluticasone). Symbicort combines the LABA (formoterol) with the anti-inflammatory steroid (budesonide).

How is it taken?

This medicine comes in 2 forms. One is an aerosol that uses a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) to deliver a measured amount with each spray. The other form is a dry powder used with an inhalation device (Diskus).

What is the usual dose?

Diskus: If your child is using the dry powder, the dose is usually 1 inhalation every 12 hours.

MDI: If your child is using the metered dose inhaler, the dose is usually 1 or 2 inhalations every 12 hours.

What side effects can this drug cause?

These medicines may increase the chance of severe asthma episodes, and death. These medicines should only be used if inhaled corticosteroids do not control the asthma and your child needs a second controller medicine. The most common side effects are jitteriness and an increased heart rate.

What special instructions should be followed?

Do not use this medicine more than twice in a 24-hour period. If your child needs more treatments because the asthma symptoms are not helped by the medicine, call your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking this medicine without your healthcare provider's approval. Suddenly stopping this medicine may be life-threatening. Suddenly stopping an inhaled steroid while using this medicine may also be life-threatening.

Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-01-09
Last reviewed: 2008-12-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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