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Bronchodilator medicines - Side effects of bronchodilator medicines

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Bronchodilators can sometimes cause side effects.

Beta-2 agonists

Beta-2 agonists can affect other muscles as well as the lungs, which can lead to side effects.

The most common side effects are nervousness, restlessness and trembling. Some people also find they get a dry, irritated throat after using the medication.

Less common side effects include:

These side effects should improve and disappear completely after you have been using beta-2 agonists for a few days or weeks. Contact your GP if your side effects persist; your dosage may need to be adjusted.


Compared with beta-2 agonists, anticholinergics are better tolerated by most people and serious side effects are rare. A dry mouth is the most commonly reported side effect.

Less common side effects include:

  • nausea
  • coughing
  • headaches
  • constipation 
  • palpitations
  • an inability to urinate
  • a rash
  • blurred vision


Theophyllines can cause serious side effects if too much of the medication builds up in your body. You will need to have regular blood tests to ensure levels of theophylline in your body are safe.

Older people are more at risk of developing side effects from theophyllines because their liver may not be able to remove the medication from their body.

Possible side effects of theophyllines include:

  • a rapid heart beat
  • trembling and palpitations
  • restlessness and nervousness
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • sleep problems
  • seizures (fits)

Contact your GP if you have any of these side effects. Again, it may be that your dosage will need to be reviewed.

Medical Review: May 29, 2012
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