Bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways or breathing tubes which work to help open the airways. When the airways are more open, it helps you breathe easier.
Bronchodilators can be short-acting or long-acting.
- Short-acting bronchodilators work quickly so that you get relief from symptoms fast, but they wear off in a few hours.
- Long-acting bronchodilators provide relief for many hours, but the effect may be slower. Long-acting bronchodilators need to be taken every day, even when you feel well
Types of Bronchodilator Medications
Beta2-Agonists work to relax the tightened muscles around your airways. This opens the airway and makes breathing easier. Short-acting beta-agonists (SABA) work within minutes but last only 4-6 hours. Long-acting beta-agonists (LABA) may be slow to start working but can last up to 12 to 24 hours so are used to maintain open airways throughout the day or the night. LABAs need to be taken every day.
Anticholinergics work to prevent the muscles around your airways from tightening so keep the airways open and help clear mucus from your lungs. This combination allows your cough to expel mucus more easily. There are short-acting anticholinergic (SAMA) and long-acting anticholinergics (LAMA).