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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 keep muscles around the airways from getting too tight (bronchospasm) when exposed to asthma triggers. Asthma triggers include pollens, animals, molds, colds, 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 to control asthma. 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 of asthma symptoms. They do not provide quick relief. LABAs take 10 to 20 minutes to start to work, but their benefits last up to 12 hours. They should never be used as the only controller medicine. Also, LABAs are not to be used as rescue medicines. 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 Diskus) and formoterol (Foradil Aerolizer). The ADVAIR Diskus and ADVAIR HFA combine a LABA (salmeterol) with a steroid (fluticasone). Symbicort combines the LABA (formoterol) with a steroid (budesonide). Dulera combines the LABA (formoterol) with a steroid (mometasone). Steroids fight inflammation.

How is it taken?

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

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 steroids do not control the asthma, and
  • your child needs a second controller medicine

The most common side effects are shakiness and a fast heart rate.

What special instructions should be followed?

Do not use this medicine more than twice in a 24-hour period. If your child’s asthma symptoms are not helped by the medicine, call your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your healthcare provider says it is OK. If your child suddenly stops taking this medicine, it could be life-threatening. Your child should also not suddenly stop taking inhaled steroids while taking this medicine. Talk with your provider about this.


Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-12-13
Last reviewed: 2010-12-13

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 health care professional.

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