Side effects of Bronchodilator medicines

Bronchodilators can sometimes cause side effects, although these are usually mild or short-lived.

Some of the main side effects of bronchodilators are described below, but this isn't an exhaustive list. They may not all apply to the specific medication you're taking.

For information on the side effects of a particular bronchodilator, check the patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your medication. You may be able to find a specific PIL in the MHRA database on GOV.UK .

Beta-2 agonists

The main side effects ofbeta-2 agonistssuch assalbutamol include:

  • trembling, particularly in the hands
  • nervous tension
  • Headaches
  • suddenly noticeable heartbeats ( palpitations )
  • muscle cramps

These side effects often improve and disappear completely after you've been using beta-2 agonists for a few days or weeks. Contact your GP if your side effects persist, as your dose may need to be adjusted.

More serious side effects are rare, but can include sudden constriction of the airways (paradoxical bronchospasm) with some inhalers. Excessive doses occasionally causing heart attacks and a severely low level of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).


The main side effects ofanticholinergics like ipratropium include:

  • a dry mouth
  • constipation
  • a cough
  • headaches

Less common side effects include:

  • nausea
  • heartburn
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • palpitations
  • throat irritation
  • difficulty urinating

Glaucoma may worsen if the medication gets in the eyes when using an inhaler or a nebuliser.


Theophylline can cause serious side effects if too much of it builds up in your body. You'll usually need to have regular blood tests during treatment to ensure the levels of theophylline in your body are safe.

Older people are more at risk of developing side effects from theophylline, because their livers may not be able to removeit fromtheir body.

The main side effects of theophylline include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • palpitations
  • a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • headaches
  • problems sleeping (insomnia)

Contact your GP if you have any of these side effects, as yourdose may need to be reviewed.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Nov 2016