Bronchodilators - Short-acting Beta-2 Agonists (SABA)

Metered dose inhaler

Drug names:

  • Salbutamol - e.g. Ventolin.
  • Terbutaline - e.g. Bricanyl.

These drugs act quickly within 5-15 minutes and are effective for 3-5 hours. They are given for the immediate relief of breathlessness.

They come in inhaler form and also can be nebulised.


  • Some patients develop an over-reliance on inhaler use due to prompt relief of symptoms and impression that the inhaler is ‘helping’.
  • Symptoms are only relieved. Bronchodilators do not contribute to control of underlying disease and may mask severity of disease.
  • Increasing need for bronchodilator medication may suggest declining control of condition.
  • Patients may be using short acting bronchodilators for relief of symptoms that are unrelated to their respiratory condition and may require medical or specialist review.