What is Ventolin Inhaler?

Written by cindy heflin
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What is Ventolin Inhaler?
Parts of an albuterol sulphate inhaler.

A Ventolin inhaler is a device for delivering medication to the lungs of an asthma patient during an asthma attack. The patient inhales the medication, Ventolin (a trade name for the bronchodilater albuterol sulphate), through a plastic mouthpiece. A Ventolin inhaler is available only with a doctor's prescription. Other brands of inhaled albuterol sulphate are also available. They include ProAir and Proventil.

Parts of the inhaler

A Ventolin or albuterol sulphate inhaler consists of a metal pressurised canister and a plastic device known as an actuator. The canister is filled with medication and an aerosol propellant. It has a small plastic tube on one end. The actuator has a plastic cap you remove before inhaling the medication.

What is Ventolin Inhaler?
Parts of an albuterol sulphate inhaler.

How it works

The plastic tube on the end of the canister fits into a small opening in the actuator. When you push down on the canister, a metered dose of medication is forced through a tiny opening in the actuator. As the medication is released, you breathe it in through the mouthpiece.

Many inhalers need to be primed before their first use, after not being used for several days and after cleaning. To prime, shake the inhaler a few times, then press down on the canister two to four times while pointing the inhaler away from your body. Follow the manufacturer's directions for when and how to prime your inhaler.

What is Ventolin Inhaler?
Inhaler ready for use.


Albuterol sulphate causes smooth muscles surrounding the airways in the lungs to relax, allowing airways narrowed during an asthma attack to open up. After using a Ventolin inhaler, you should start to feel better within a few minutes. Albuterol sulphate can also have side effects. These can include headache, nervousness, trembling or shaking, dizziness, throat irritation, coughing, insomnia, nausea and rapid heart beat.


Call your doctor should you experience any of the following after using an albuterol sulphate or Ventolin inhaler: a very fast or irregular heartbeat, hives, itching, swelling or wheezing. Also call your doctor if your breathing does not improve or gets worse after using the inhaler.

Inhalers come with a set number of doses or puffs, usually 200. The Ventolin HFA inhaler comes with a counter so you can tell how many puffs are left. With other brands, you must keep track of the number of doses left so that you know when to get a refill. Don't let your inhaler run out.

Care of the inhaler

To keep the inhaler functioning properly, you must keep the actuator clean. About once a week, remove the canister and hold the actuator under running water. Run water through the actuator holding it upright under the faucet. Also run water through the other end of the actuator by holding the mouthpiece under the faucet. Let the actuator dry with the cap off and without the canister attached overnight. Prime it again before using. If you must use the inhaler before it is dry, shake off as much water as possible, then clean it again after use.

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