Sounds like 'sal-BYOO-ta-moll'

Easy-to-read medicine information about salbutamol – what is it, how to take salbutamol safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Bronchodilator (opens the airways)
  • Reliever inhaler (relieves breathing problems)
  • Asthalin®
  • Respigen®
  • Salamol®
  • Ventolin®

What is salbutamol?

  • Salbutamol is used to treat cough, wheeze and difficulty breathing caused by respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD.
  • It works by opening air passages in the lungs to make breathing easier.
  • Salbutamol is called a ‘reliever’ medicine because it quickly relieves your breathing problems. It starts to work within a few minutes and the effect will last between 3 to 5 hours.
  • It belongs to a group of medicines known as short-acting bronchodilators.


Salbutamol is available as an inhaler (puffer) or as a nebulising solution.    

Salbutamol inhaler

  • The usual dose of salbutamol inhaler is 1 or 2 puffs up to 4 times a day, when needed for shortness of breath or wheezing, 
  • If you have asthma, you will receive a written asthma action plan from your asthma nurse or doctor which will tell you how many puffs to use for each dose, and the maximum number of puffs you should use in 24 hours. If you do not get relief from your symptoms after using the salbutamol inhaler, you must contact your doctor for advice straightaway or call 111.
  • If you are using this medication to prevent asthma brought on by exercise, the usual dose is 2 puffs inhaled 15 to 30 minutes before exercise.
  • Here is some guidance on how to use your salbutamol inhaler.

Salbutamol nebulising solution

  • The usual dose of salbutamol inhalation (nebulising) solution is 2.5 mg or 5 mg up to 4 times daily when needed for shortness of breath.  
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it and any special instructions.  
  • Here is some guidance on how to use your salbutamol nebulising solution. 

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, salbutamol can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling shaky
  • Nervousness
  • Tremor
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • These are quite common when you first start using salbutamol and usually go away with time.
  • Changes in your heartbeat (faster)
  • Chest pain
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Sudden worsening of breathing problems and start to use salbutamol a lot
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116 


Salbutamol may interact with a some medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting salbutamol or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet    

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: salbutamol (for inhalation)

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Last reviewed: 06 Jul 2015