Ventolin HFA Inhaler

Use a Ventolin HFA inhaler to fend off an asthma attack

Ventolin HFA is a reliable reliever inhaler used to treat asthmatic symptoms and some types of COPD. It works by relaxing the smooth muscles inside the airways, making breathing easier.

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Written by Dr Kim Langdon MD

Information last reviewed 07/17/19


What is Ventolin?

Ventolin HFA is an inhaler, primarily used to relieve asthma symptoms. It is also used for the treatment of some types of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is usually caused by long-term smoking.

Asthma attacks can come on suddenly and unpredicatably and they can be life threatening. Therefore, if you have been prescribed a reliever inhaler, it is important that you keep it on hand at all times.

How does Ventolin HFA work?

Ventolin HFA is a type of reliever inhaler known as a beta-2-agonist. This means that it works by relaxing the smooth muscle found in the airways. Ventolin does not cure asthma, but it can be used to relieve asthmatic symptoms and to prevent exercise-induced asthma. It is a short-acting inhaler, meaning the effects last for a few hours


Active ingredients

The active ingredient in Ventolin is albuterol sulfate, also known as salbutamol sulfate. This is a beta-2-agonist, which works by relaxing the smooth muscle that lines the airways.

Inactive ingredients

The inactive ingredients in Ventolin HFA is HFA-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane), which is a propellant used in the release of the medication.

Which ingredients can cause an allergic reaction?

A severe allergic reaction to this medication is rare, unless you are specifically allergic to active or inactive ingredients. Facial swelling, trouble breathing, hives/rash and dizziness are signs of a severe allergic reaction, so if you notice these symptoms please do seek immediate medical attention. 



The usual dose of Ventolin is 2 inhalations every 4 to 6 hours. To prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm, use 2 inhalations 15 to 30 minutes before exercise. The effects of Albuterol last about 4 to 6 hours.

What should I do if I miss a dose of Ventolin?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember.  If it is almost time for your next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What should I do if I take too much Ventolin?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.  An overdose of Ventolin HFA can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include dry mouth, shaking, tremors, chest pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, nausea, feeling ill, seizures, light-headed or fainting.

How to prime a Ventolin Inhaler

If this is the first time you are using this inhaler, or if you haven’t used your inhaler recently, you should prime your inhaler. You do this by:

  1. Removing the mouthpiece cap
  2. Shaking the inhaler well
  3. Spraying once into the air, away from your face
  4. Then repeat steps 1-3 another three times, before using your inhaler as normal.

How to use a Ventolin Inhaler

You should follow the directions in the patient information leaflet that will accompany your inhaler. However, the following instructions also outline how to use your inhaler:

  1. Remove the cap from the mouthpiece and vigorously shake your inhaler
  2. Position the inhaler with the mouthpiece at the bottom and a finger on top of the canister (the canister should be at the top)
  3. Breathe out as much as possible, then immediately put the mouthpiece in your mouth and create a seal round it with your lips.
  4. Push down the top of the canister as far as possible, while breathing in slowly through your mouth
  5. After the spray has come out, you can take your finger off the canister and take the inhaler out of your mouth, but try to keep your mouth closed and hold your breath for at least 10 seconds if possible
  6. Breathe out completely and as slowly as you can for as long as possible.
  7. Replace the cap on the mouthpiece
  8. If you have been instructed to use more than one spray when you use your inhaler, wait 1 minute, then repeat steps 3-7.

Tips for your Ventolin inhaler

  • Before using your Ventolin inhaler, you should check that the canister fits firmly inside the actuator (the plastic part of the inhaler).
  • When not using your inhaler, always store it with the mouthpiece facing downwards and keep the cap on the mouthpiece.
  • To prevent the build-up of bacteria or fungi, which can cause oral infections (oral thrush), you should clean the plastic part of your inhaler once a week (see instructions below).

How to clean your Ventolin Inhaler

You should try to clean your inhaler every week, following these instructions:

  1. Remove the canister from the plastic part of the inhaler (the actuator).
  2. Hold the actuator under warm water as it runs from the faucet. You should hold it here for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Then make sure you run the warm water through the mouthpiece for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Check inside to make sure there isn’t any build up of medicine or dirt inside the actuator. If there is, you may need to rinse it again until there’s no visible residue left.
  5. When clean, shake off as much excess water as possible and leave it to air-dry overnight if possible.
  6. When it is completely dry, you can replace the canister inside the plastic part. You should shake it thoroughly and spray it once, into the air, away from your face.

Failure to keep your inhaler clean could allow bacteria or fungi to build up inside the device, this increases your risk of infections such as oral thrush (yeast infection).

Side Effects

Ventolin side effects

Common Ventolin HFA side effects may include:

  • Shakiness
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus pain
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Back pain
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Most side effects will go away on their own. If not, notify your doctor for a dose adjustment or medication change.

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Wheezing, a choking sensation, or other breathing problems
  • Chest pain, fast heart rate, pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest;
  • Pain or burning when you urinate;
  • Increased thirst, increased urination,
  • Hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, drowsiness, dry skin, blurred vision, weight loss; or
  • Signs of low potassium such as, constipation, leg cramps, extreme thirst, increased urination, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness or feeling limp.

Drug Interactions

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any that you stop or start while taking Ventolin. The following medications have known interactions with Ventolin:

  • Any other inhaled medicines or bronchodilators;
  • Digoxin;
  • "Water pill" or a diuretics like Lasix, Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Antidepressants - Amitriptyline, Desipramine, Imipramine, Doxepin, Ortriptyline, and others;
  • Beta blockers such as Labetolol, Atenolol, Carvedilol, Metoprolol, Propranolol; used for high blood pressure generally
  • MAO inhibitors such as Isocarboxazid, Rasagiline, Linezolid, Phenelzine,  Selegiline, Tranylcypromine, and others or Methylene Blue injection—this is done under doctor supervision


Ventolin and other similar inhalers are not recommended for children under the age of 4. You should speak to the prescribing physician if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is important to keep on top of your asthma in these situations, but your doctor should be able to advise you on the best way to do this.


Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.

  1. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics." O 0
  2. "Product Information. Albuterol Sulfate (albuterol (salbutamol))." Vista Pharm Inc, Birmingham, AL.
  3. "Albuterol." Med Lett Drugs Ther 23 (1981): 81-2
  4. Godfrey S "Worldwide experience with albuterol (salbutamol)." Ann Allergy 47 (1981): 423-6

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