Sounds like 'sal-MET-er-all'

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

Type of medicine Also called
  • Bronchodilator (opens the air passages to the lungs)
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilators
  • Serevent Accuhaler®
  • Serevent Inhaler®

Serevent is available in two devices, either as:

  • an aerosol inhaler (puffer, metered dose inhaler or MDI)
  • dry powder for inhaler (an accuhaler).

Both devices are equally effective. The choice of device is personal preference.

What is salmeterol?

  • Salmeterol is used to improve breathing problems caused by asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary or airway disease.
  • It eases symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Salmeterol works by opening air passages in the lungs to make breathing easier.
  • It belongs to the class of drugs known as long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilators.
  • Salmeterol may be used together with other medicines called corticosteroids or preventers such as beclometasone, budesonide or fluticasone.


  • The usual dose of salmeterol is 1 or 2 inhalations twice daily.
  • Always use your salmeterol exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it, and any special instructions.
  • Each dose of salmeterol will keep your air passages open and relieve chest tightness and wheezing for up to 12 hours.

How to use salmeterol inhaler (puffer)

  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using an inhaler.
  • Even if you have been shown before, ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to explain how to use your inhaler if you still have any questions.
  • The following steps are a guide:
    • Remove the protective cap at the plastic bottom part of the puffer.
    • Put your mouth over the plastic bottom part of the puffer AND push down on the top metal part as you breathe in.
    • Inhale the medicine that comes out.
    • Hold breath for 10 seconds. Breathe out slowly.
    • Repeat the steps for the next puff.
  • If you find difficulty in using an inhaler, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about a spacer device, which can be attached to your inhaler. It makes using your inhaler easier.

How to use salmeterol accuhaler

  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using an accuhaler.
  • Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will explain how to use your accuhaler — the following steps are a guide:
    • Open the accuhaler to expose the mouthpiece.
    • Slide the lever away from you. The number in the dose counter will be reduced by one.
    • Put the mouthpiece to your lips and breath in steadily through the accuhaler.
    • Remove the accuhaler and hold your breath for 10 seconds.
    • Breathe out slowly.
    • The accuhaler has a dose counter that tells you how many doses are left.
    • When you have reached the last five doses, the numbers appear in red. This is a warning that there are only a few doses left.

What else do I need to know?

  • Use salmeterol every day. Do not stop using salmeterol, even if you feel better.
  • Try to use salmeteroll at the same times each day, to help you to remember to use it regularly.
  • It is not harmful if you miss a dose of salmeterol. If you miss a dose, you can take it as soon as you remember, or if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take your next dose at the right time.

Possible side effects

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

Side effects What should I do?
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pain in the joints
  • These are quite common when you first start using salmeterol, and usually go away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Fast heart rate
  • Feeling nervous, restless, agitated
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if troublesome
  • Allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine on 0800 611 116

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information: Serevent Accuhaler Serevent Inhaler 
New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: salmeterol
More about inhalers Asthma Foundation

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Carolyn Woolerton, Pharmacist, MedWise, August 2016 Last reviewed: 28 Oct 2017