Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD – such as asthma can often lead to respiratory problems. These conditions often show up in the form of gasping for breath or wheezing. Your doctor may prescribe a few meds to treat such breathing conditions. Medications administered for treating respiratory conditions work by dilating the airways and helping ease your respiratory cycles. Meds belonging to a genre called bronchodilators are most commonly used. Albuterol is one such drug; but, is it safe to take when you do not have an asthmatic attack? Know more about this as a safety precaution.
Smoking is considered a key cause of asthmatic attacks or other forms of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD. You are advised to refrain from smoking as well as keep away from people who smoke; the latter is a safety precaution because secondhand smoke is equally dangerous. If left untreated, breathing difficulties – such as asthma and/or bronchitis – can slowly impair your respiratory system (including lungs, airways, etc.) and also damage a few essential organs. Key signs of COPD are quite distinct in nature; frequently experienced signs are incessant episodes of coughing, witnessing strands of mucus while coughing up, wheezing or shortness of breath, congestion in your chest, etc. In some acute cases, people with severe spells of asthma may witness discoloration of their fingernails; in such instances, the tips of your fingers may assume a bluish shade.
The presence of COPD and its severity can be diagnosed by the use of spirometry. This procedure involves breathing into a device called a spirometer; it gauges the volume of air flowing through your lungs. It can also measure the blowing rate (of air as it emerges out of the lungs). In some cases, conventional diagnostic tools (such as spirometers) may yield only a restricted knowledge of your breathing condition. In such cases, your treating physician may recommend a CT scan or an x-ray of the chest. In very remote instances, lab tests are also administered. The level of oxygen as well as carbon dioxide –taken in or discharged from the lungs – can be inferred through blood gas tests. Studies indicate that people who have a deficiency of a naturally occurring chemical called alpha-1-antitrypsin (in short, AAT) are more vulnerable to COPD. Lab samples are taken to measure the level of AAT in your system.
Administration of albuterol – a bronchodilator
Bronchodilators are a class of medications that are used for treating respiratory conditions. Albuterol forms part of this genre of meds and is widely administered in the treatment of breathing problems. Albuterol is available in many forms – such as a suspended form (a syrup/liquid version), a tablet, and also an extended-release / long-action form. The long-action pill is taken once every half day. The syrup is however administered thrice a day.
Common side effects albuterol can trigger are headaches/migraines, dizziness, restlessness, sudden mood shifts – such as depression or anxieties, sleep-based disorders (feeling very sleepy or an insomniac / sleepless condition), etc. In a few users, side effects like abdominal pain, cramped abdominal muscles, shaking (tremors), as well as nausea, have been observed. In some remote cases, a small section of users reported bleeding from their nose soon after using this med. Other acute side effects of using albuterol are rashes, hives, itchiness, rapid beating, and/or erratic heartbeats.
Can I use albuterol when there is no asthmatic attack?
It is not a good practice to use albuterol if you do not have an asthmatic attack. In fact, if you can breathe freely, you may not need a bronchodilator. It is hence considered unsafe to use albuterol if you are not having an asthmatic attack. Those who used the drug without an asthmatic attack may experience discomforts such as faster pulse rates, erratic heartbeats, increased levels of acids in their blood as well as a faster rate of respiration. Also, those living with diabetes (or high level of blood sugar) and a decreased level of potassium in their blood are at an added risk.
Among women who are pregnant, the needless use of albuterol (or any other variant of bronchodilator) can cause premature delivery or give birth to babies with very low body weight. Apart from women who are pregnant, those who are breastfeeding may also be at added risk; as the ingredients of albuterol can get into mother’s milk, your infant may run the risk of being fed with such milk. Babies who took milk – i.e., containing active chemicals of albuterol – may experience feeding difficulties, and sleeping problems, and may also cry incessantly.
Factors to be aware of while taking albuterol
Dosage of albuterol can vary depending on several factors: key factors are the severity of an asthmatic attack, your age, and prior ailments if any. This is a fast-action med and is known to yield a faster remedy to your breathing conditions. The drug works by easing away your airways as well as the muscles/tissues of your lungs. So, never use larger doses of albuterol without talking to your caregiving team. Last but not the least, it is advised to administer this med at the same time every day. Also, bronchodilator meds – such as albuterol – are not taken as an OTC or self-medicating med. The use of these bronchodilators needs to be under the supervision and guidance of a medical specialist.
Also, stay aware that albuterol is commonly known as salbutamol sulfate. Some of the acute side effects it is found to cause are inflammation of the tongue, throat, etc., and severe episodes of dizziness along with panting for breath. Owing to the dizziness it may cause, you are advised to shift postures – say, from a sitting to a standing position or vice versa – in a slow and steady manner.
In sum, it is not safe to take albuterol when there is no asthmatic attack. You are likely to witness faster heartbeats, increased acid levels of blood, etc. Your respiration rate may become faster. People with diabetes and/or those living with low potassium levels in the blood may need to completely stay away from bronchodilators. Upon encountering any acute discomforts such as loss of coordination, palpitations, or faster heart rate, contact a poison control unit or reach out to Health Canada in an emergency mode (if you are a resident of any of the Canadian provinces). If you are living in the US, call 911 or contact the helpdesk of the FDA as quickly as possible.