What fast-acting bronchodilators (or "rescue" or "quick relief" medications) are used to treat COPD?

There are several short-acting bronchodilators for COPD. These include:

What do fast-acting bronchodilators do, and how are they supplied?

These medicines do the following things:

  • Quickly relax muscles that tighten around the airways, making the airways wider and breathing easier
  • Help clear mucus from the lungs. As the airways open, the mucus can move more freely and can be coughed out more easily.
  • Relieve acute shortness of breath
  • Last 3 to 6 hours

The products are available in several forms:

What are the possible side effects of fast-acting bronchodilators?

These symptoms are temporary and may include:

Note: The side effects listed are the most common. Always contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about your personal situation.

How and when do you take fast-acting bronchodilators? Are there special instructions?

  • These products should be taken before other inhalers.
  • Use to quickly relieve shortness of breath.
  • Swallow any tablets whole; do not chew or crush tablets.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/14/2018.


  • American Lung Association. How is COPD Treated. (http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/diagnosing-and-treating/how-is-copd-treated.html) Accessed 11/9/2021.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD. (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd) Accessed 11/9/2021.

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