What Is Ventolin and What Is It Used For?

Ventolin® is a medicine used to treat common respiratory diseases, such as asthma and some complications linked to bronchospasms. We explain its mechanism of action in this article.
What Is Ventolin and What Is It Used For?

Last update: 27 March, 2023

Many diseases of the respiratory tract are characterized by a decrease in the bronchial lumen, which causes difficulty in breathing. On many occasions it’s necessary to inhale medications, such as Ventolin ®, to improve the condition.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a medical term that is applied to various pathologies that occur with bronchial obstruction. These include asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Although their etiology may be different, the treatment is quite similar.

What is Ventolin ®?

Ventolin ® is a bronchodilator medication. Its main function is to dilate the bronchial tree to facilitate airflow. The active principle is salbutamol, whose mechanism of action is as a beta-adrenergic agonist, with a high affinity for beta-2 receptors.

Salbutamol began to be distributed under this trade name in 1969. Due to its great popularity and wide use, it continued to be known by this name over time. This drug is available in 2 presentations:

  • Inhalation suspension in a pressurized container of 100 µg/inhalation
  • Solution for inhalation by nebulizer of 5 mg/ml
Girl is nebulized with Ventolin for asthma.
The presentation for nebulization is less used than inhalers.

What’s it for?

This medicine is the first choice treatment for mild, moderate, and severe cases of asthma, one of the most frequent COPD in children. Various studies carried out in Spain have shown that around 10% of children between 6 and 7 years of age have shown symptoms of this disease.

Asthma is a pathology that affects the bronchi, producing inflammation of the mucosa within them and increasing mucus secretion, as well as causing smooth muscle contraction. These conditions decrease the lumen of the affected bronchus, preventing the correct flow of air. As a direct consequence, the patient has difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing.

On the other hand, Ventolin ® is also used to treat bronchospasms caused by allergies, intense physical exercise, and other COPD. All the conditions mentioned favor the contraction of the bronchial smooth muscle, which is why it’s necessary to dilate it.

How does Ventolin ® work in the body?

The active principle of this drug interacts with beta-2-adrenergic receptors, located in the smooth muscle of the bronchi. When these receptors are activated by the effect of salbutamol, a series of biochemical reactions are triggered that will have the final result of a decrease in calcium ions.

Calcium ions are essential in muscle contraction. As there’s little availability of them, it won’t be possible to carry out the contraction. In addition, by reducing inflammatory cells through alternate pathways, bronchial inflammation will gradually subside, thus achieving better ventilation.

The results after the use of Ventolin ® are immediate. An investigation done in Brazil showed an improvement of 3% of the various volumes handled in a spirometry after inhaling 200 µg of the drug.

All indications for use, as well as the duration of treatment, must be provided by the treating physician. These conditions vary depending on the disease and the characteristics of the patient.

Using the pressurized inhalation solution is very simple. According to the drug’s internal leaflet, to relieve an acute attack, 1 or 2 applications are necessary in adults and children over 12 years of age. However, in children under 12 years of age, only 1 application will be necessary.

On the other hand, when continuous treatment is required, it’s recommended to make 2 applications 4 times a day. The maximum recommended dose is 8 applications in 24 hours, however, the doctor may indicate extra emergency applications if breathing worsens.

What are the side effects?

Like all medicines, salbutamol is capable of causing side effects in some people. It’s important to note that the adverse reactions aren’t very severe, however, a doctor should always be consulted if they occur.

Among the side effects of Ventolin ® are the following:

  • Headaches
  • Tremors and muscle cramps
  • Increased heart rate and palpitations
  • Mouth and throat irritation
  • Allergic reactions to components

Warnings and contraindications of Ventolin ®

The use of Ventolin ® is safe and doesn’t have major contraindications. This medicine should not be used if there’s an allergy to any of the components. In addition, it isn’t recommended in premature births.

On the other hand, you should always inform your doctor if you have any underlying disease. Especially when dealing with cardiovascular pathologies, as cases of supraventricular tachycardia have been reported after the administration of salbutamol.

Extreme care is necessary in the face of the following:

  • High blood pressure or other heart diseases
  • Alterations of the thyroid gland
  • Low levels of potassium in the blood
  • Consumption of xanthine, steroids, or diuretics
Salbutamol inhaled by a patient.
An adverse effect of salbutamol is increased heart rate, so cardiac patients require supervision.

General considerations about the drug

This is an inhalation drug used in the treatment of various obstructive diseases, and it has had good results over time. Ventolin ® is a medication that has shown few side effects, so it’s safe to use during pregnancy or lactation with prior medical authorization.

Although it’s simple to use, many people don’t have a proper inhalation technique. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult a doctor if you have any doubts about it, in order to obtain the best results.

  • Pérez-Padilla R, Torre Bouscoulet L, Vázquez-García J, Muiño A, Márquez M et al. Valores de referencia para la espirometría después de la inhalación de 200 μg de salbutamol. Archivos de Bronconeumología. 2007;43(10):530-534.
  • García-Falcón D, Lawrence K, Prendes-Columbié M. Uso inadecuado de la vía inhalatoria en pacientes asmáticos que utilizan salbutamol. Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública. 2013;30:349-350.
  • Cockcroft D, McParland C,Britto S, Swystun V, Rutherford B. Regular inhaled salbutamol and airway responsiveness to allergen. The Lancet. 1993;342(8875):833-837.
  • Klassen T, Rowe P, Sutcliffe T, Ropp L, McDowell W, Li M. Randomized trial of salbutamol in acute bronchiolitis. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1991;118(5):807-811.
  • Price D, Bosnic-Anticevich S, Briggs A, Chrystyn H, Rand C et al. Inhaler competence in asthma: Common errors, barriers to use and recommended solutions, Respiratory Medicine. 2013; 107(1):37-46.
  • Prospecto ventolín 100 microgramos/inhalación suspensión para inhalación en envase a presión. Documento online disponible en: https://cima.aemps.es/cima/dochtml/p/53010/P_53010.html#3-c-mo-usar-ventolin-100-microgramos-inhalaci-n-suspensi-n-para-inhalaci-n-en-envase-a-presi-n.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.