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Budesonide vs Albuterol For Asthma – Uses & Side Effects

Budesonide vs Albuterol For Asthma – Uses & Side Effects

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease which is characterized by reversible airway obstruction in response to various stimuli.

It is a very common disease in the US, where more than 30 million people are affected. A third of these are children.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for asthma include a person’s genetics, various infections, development and growth of the immune system and lungs, and exposures in the environment.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of asthma are:

  • coughing – it may be more common at night;
  • tightness in the chest;
  • wheezing – making a noise like a whistle when you breathe out;
  • shortness of breath.

Note – it is vital to recognize these signs and symptoms and talk to your healthcare professional so you can be symptom-free and healthy.

When asthma symptoms become severe, you will be unable to perform your regular activities. Severe symptoms include:

  • blue fingernails or lips;
  • severe wheezing (both when breathing in and out);
  • sweaty face;
  • feelings of panic or anxiety;
  • inability to fully exhale;
  • difficulty talking;
  • chest pain or pressure;
  • inability to catch your breath;
  • very rapid breathing;
  • coughing which won’t stop.

Asthma Attacks

Asthma can occasionally get worse for a short time – this is known as an asthma attack.

During an asthma attack, the bronchi constrict and this makes it extremely difficult to breathe.

An asthma attack may be minor, with symptoms which get better with prompt home treatment, or it may be more serious.

Signs of a severe asthma attack include:

  • fainting;
  • blue lips or fingers;
  • exhaustion or dizziness;
  • confusion;
  • drowsiness;
  • a fast heartbeat;
  • breathing faster;
  • being too breathless to speak or eat;
  • chest tightness becoming severe and constant.

What causes an asthma attack?

Many factors and activities can cause asthma symptoms, including:

  • fragrances;
  • tobacco smoke;
  • bad weather;
  • pet hair or dander;
  • acid reflux;
  • dust;
  • sinus infections and allergies;
  • pollen;
  • smoke from burning wood;
  • cockroaches;
  • pollution;
  • mold.
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Treatment

Asthma is an incurable illness. But, with good management and treatment, there is no reason why an individual with asthma cannot live a normal life.

A typical patient with asthma may take a preventer inhaler every day and use a reliever inhaler when required.

Here is a comparison of two medications for asthma:

Budesonide

This medication belongs to a family of drugs known as corticosteroids.

It works by preventing inflammation in the lungs, that makes the asthma attack less severe.

Albuterol

It is a bronchodilator, meaning that it is used to relax the bronchial tubes in the lungs. It belongs to a class of drugs called beta-agonists.

This medication comes as an aerosol or powder to inhale by mouth using an inhaler and as a solution to inhale by mouth using a special jet nebulizer.

Note – albuterol is only available as the brand-name drugs Ventolin HFA, ProAir HFA, and Proventil HFA. Its generic form is not available.

Uses

Budesonide inhalation is used to prevent asthma attacks in adults and children who are at least 6 years old.

Note – it will not relieve an asthma attack which has already started.

Albuterol is used to relieve bronchospasms in conditions such as bronchospasm, asthma, and other obstructive pulmonary diseases. It is for use in adults and children who are at least 4 years old.

Mechanism of Action

Budesonide inhalation works by decreasing swelling and irritation in the airways to allow for easier breathing.

Albuterol works by stimulating little receptors in the lungs which help open up the bronchial tubes so air can move freely.

Side Effects

Budesonide

The most common adverse events include:

  • nosebleed;
  • sneezing;
  • loss of appetite;
  • runny or stuffy nose;
  • back pain;
  • itchy and watery eyes;
  • headache;
  • cough;
  • stomach pain;
  • diarrhea;
  • sore throat;
  • nausea.
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Serious side effects include:

  • feeling light-headed;
  • worsening asthma symptoms;
  • muscle weakness;
  • choking;
  • ear pain;
  • body aches;
  • seeing halos around lights;
  • sores inside your mouth or on your lips.

Albuterol

The most common adverse events include:

  • upset stomach;
  • body aches;
  • stuffy or runny nose;
  • back pain;
  • sinus pain;
  • dizziness;
  • sore throat;
  • headache;
  • diarrhea;
  • nausea;
  • feeling nervous.

Serious side effects include:

  • muscle weakness or limp feeling;
  • choking after using this medicine;
  • numbness or tingling;
  • fluttering in your chest;
  • increased urination;
  • weight loss;
  • blurred vision;
  • burning when you urinate.

Dosage

Budesonide

The usual initial dose is 360 mcg via oral inhalation two times per day.

The maximum recommended dose is 720 mcg two times per day.

Note – it may take several weeks to obtain the maximum therapeutic benefits of this medication when used to treat asthma.

Albuterol

The usual recommended dosage is 2 inhalations every 4 to 6 hours. 

This medication helps to relax the airway muscles for up to 6 to 12 hours.

Warnings & Precautions

Budesonide

It may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone disease which causes bones to become weak and break easily.

Do not use this corticosteroid during an asthma attack.

If after using the medication for the first time your breathing becomes worse, please let your healthcare provider know straightaway.

If your asthma is not getting better after 14 days of taking this corticosteroid, or if you feel it is getting worse, contact your healthcare provider.

Albuterol

This medicine can cause breathing difficulties immediately after it is inhaled.

You should call your healthcare provider right away if this happens to you.

Drug Interactions

Budesonide

It may interact in a negative way with the following medications:

  • formoterol;
  • Advair Diskus;
  • ibuprofen;
  • Advil (ibuprofen);
  • DuoNeb;
  • Combivent;
  • Brovana (arformoterol);
  • aspirin.
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Albuterol

It may interact in a negative way with the following medications:

  • Symbicort;
  • Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine);
  • Prednisone;
  • MiraLax (polyethylene glycol 3350);
  • Advair Diskus (fluticasone/salmeterol);
  • metoprolol (a beta-blocker used to treat chest pain);
  • Lasix (furosemide);
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine);
  • Azithromycin.

Alcohol

Using alcohol with these asthma medications may cause interactions to occur.

Discuss with your doctor the use of your asthma medication with alcoholic beverages.

Is It Safe During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?

Budesonide

This corticosteroid can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby.

However, it is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

Albuterol

It is not known whether this adrenergic agonist passes into breast milk. Also, it is not known whether the adrenergic agonist will harm an unborn baby.

Bottom Line – Budesonide vs Albuterol

Budesonide is a corticosteroid which is used to control and prevent symptoms caused by asthma.

Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended as first-line treatment for patients with asthma and are the most consistently effective long-term asthma-control medication.

Albuterol is an adrenergic agonist which is used as a bronchodilator to treat or prevent bronchospasm in sufferers with asthma and other lung diseases.

In conclusion, budesonide is a preventer inhaler that you must use regularly every day to prevent your asthma symptoms from developing.

On the other hand, albuterol is used for the management of acute asthma symptoms or emergency treatment of status asthmaticus.

Sources

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1103319
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551658/
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199409293311303
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9519224

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