ProAir HFA (Albuterol) - Inhalation

What Is ProAir HFA?

ProAir HFA (albuterol) is used to prevent and treat wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness caused by breathing problems that may be associated with certain lung diseases. It’s a quick-relief medication and a beta-agonist. It works by relaxing the airway muscles to open air passages to the lungs to make breathing easier. Albuterol also inhibits the release of immediate hypersensitivity mediators from mast cells.

ProAir is available in three different types of ProAir inhalers:

  • ProAir HFA: metered-dose inhaler that releases the drug as a fine mist
  • ProAir RespiClick: a dry powder inhaler that releases the drug as a powder
  • ProAir Digihaler: a dry powder inhaler that connects the inhaler to a mobile app on your phone to tell you how well you’re inhaling the medication

All three forms of ProAir inhalers come in a strength of 90 micrograms (mcg) per puff. It’s a prescription drug and must be used as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Albuterol

Brand Name(s): ProAir HFA

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Beta-agonist

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Administration Route: Inhalation

Active Ingredient: Albuterol sulfate

Dosage Form(s): Inhalation aerosol

What Is ProAir HFA Used For?

ProAir is indicated to:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 25 million people have asthma in the U.S. It is a leading chronic disease in children. Black children are almost three times more likely to have asthma in comparison with white children.

ProAir is a rescue inhaler and comes in different forms. Your healthcare provider will decide the frequency and type of inhaler when you need to ease trouble breathing.

How to Take ProAir HFA

Follow the instructions on your prescription label and use the medicine exactly as directed.

  1. Remove the protective cap from the mouthpiece and ensure that the canister is inserted into the mouthpiece properly.
  2. If you’re using a new inhaler or have not used it in more than 14 days, prime it. Shake it well and press to release four sprays into the air, away from your face. Avoid contact with your eyes. 
  3. Breathe out through your mouth. Hold the canister to place the open end of the mouthpiece in your mouth and close your lips.
  4. Breathe in through the mouthpiece and press down on the container to spray the medication into your mouth.
  5. Hold your breath for about 10 seconds or as long as you comfortably can; remove the inhaler, and breathe out slowly.
  6. If you are prescribed to have two puffs, wait for one to five minutes and then repeat to inhale.
  7. Replace the protective cap on the inhaler. Keep your inhaler clean.

Other directions to keep in mind:

  • Help a young child use ProAir HFA.
  • Take your puffs 15 to 30 minutes before exercising to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm. 
  • Shake ProAir HFA well before each use.
  • Always use the inhaler device provided.
  • Don't change your dose or the prescribed dosing schedule without asking your healthcare provider.

Storage

Store your ProAir HFA inhaler at room temperature between 59 and 77 degrees F (15 and 25 degrees C). Keep your device away from heat, direct light, and humidity. Do not puncture the canister or expose it to open flame. ProAir HFA canisters can burst if exposed to extreme temperatures. Don’t store your device in the bathroom. Store your inhaler with the mouthpiece down. Different brands of Albuterol have different storage needs. Ask your pharmacist how to store the brand you use if you have questions.

Keep your medications out of reach of children and pets, ideally locked in a cabinet or closet.

If you plan to travel with ProAir HFA, get familiar with your final destination's regulations. In general, be sure to make a copy of your ProAir HFA prescription. If possible, keep your medication in its original container from your pharmacy with your name on the label. If you have any questions about traveling with your medicine, be sure to ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Discard all unused and expired drugs, but do not pour them down the drain or into the toilet. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the best ways to dispose of this medicine. And check out drug take-back programs in your area.

How Long Does ProAir HFA Take to Work?

ProAir HFA works immediately to help relieve the symptoms of bronchospasm as soon as you inhale it.

Off-Label Uses

Inhaled albuterol is also used to treat or improve muscle paralysis (inability to move parts of the body) in people with high blood levels of potassium (a condition that causes paralysis attacks).

Healthcare providers also prescribe albuterol for some respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What Are the Side Effects of ProAir HFA?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Some common side effects of Albuterol include:

  • Heart palpitations/increased heart rate
  • Nervousness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throat irritation
  • Muscle aches
  • Bones or back pain
  • Uncontrollable shaking of body parts
  • Cough

Call your healthcare provider if any of the side effects become severe.

Severe Side Effects

Albuterol can cause some severe side effects, such as:

  • Allergic reactions such as rash, hives, itching, swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips or extremities, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and hoarseness
  • Wheezing, choking, or other breathing problems
  • Chest pain, irregular heart rate, pounding heartbeats, or fluttering in the chest
  • Pounding in the neck or ears
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • High blood sugar
  • Low potassium levels

Get emergency medical help if you have any of the new or worsening severe symptoms.

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-term side effects are not available for ProAir HFA.

Report Side Effects

ProAir HFA may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much ProAir HFA Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For inhalation aerosol dosage form (inhaler):
    • For treatment or prevention of bronchospasm:
      • Adults and children 4 years of age and older—Two puffs every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
      • Children younger than 4 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child's doctor.
    • For prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm:
      • Adults and children 4 years of age and older—Two puffs taken 15 to 30 minutes before exercise.
      • Children younger than 4 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child's doctor.
  • For inhalation powder dosage form (inhaler):
    • For treatment or prevention of bronchospasm:
      • Adults and children 4 years of age and older—Two puffs every 4 to 6 hours as needed.
      • Children younger than 4 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child's doctor.
    • For prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm:
      • Adults and children 4 years of age and older—Two puffs taken 15 to 30 minutes before exercise.
      • Children younger than 4 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child's doctor.
  • For inhalation solution dosage form (used with a nebulizer):
    • For prevention of bronchospasm:
      • Adults and children older than 12 years of age—2.5 milligrams (mg) in the nebulizer 3 or 4 times per day as needed.
      • Children 2 to 12 years of age—0.63 to 1.25 mg in the nebulizer 3 or 4 times per day as needed.
      • Children younger than 2 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your child's doctor.

Modifications

The following modifications (changes) should be kept in mind when using ProAir HFA:

Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using ProAir HFA if you have a known allergy to it or any of its ingredients. Ask your pharmacist for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Discuss with your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant or are pregnant, and weigh the benefits and risks of taking ProAir HFA during your pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Children: The safety of ProAir HFA has not been established for people under age 4.

Adults over the age of 65 years: The dose may need to be started at the lower side of the dosing range if the individual has reduced renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) functions.

Kidney problems: Individuals with kidney problems may not be able to clear medication from their bodies as easily. This means the medicine stays in the body longer and can have increased side effects. Albuterol and other beta-adrenergic drugs are eliminated from the kidneys. People with renal (kidney) impairment may require a different dose to avoid toxic effects.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose of ProAir HFA on a prescribed schedule or if you forget to take it before exercise, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose. Inhale your next dose at the regular time. Do not double the dose to make up for the missed dose.

Try to find ways that work for you to help yourself remember to routinely take your medication. If you miss too many doses, ProAir HFA might be less effective at preventing and/or treating your condition.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much ProAir HFA?

An overdose of albuterol may be fatal. If someone has overdosed on the drug, immediately seek medical help. Call 911 right away if the victim has collapsed or has difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of overdose are:

  • Chest pains
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache
  • General illness or extreme tiredness
  • Nervousness
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a body part
  • Seizures

What Happens if I Overdose on ProAir HFA?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on ProAir HFA, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking ProAir HFA, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your or your child's progress at regular visits. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to check for any unwanted effects.

Do not use this medicine together with other similar inhaled medicines, including isoproterenol (Isuprel®), levalbuterol (Xopenex™), metaproterenol (Alupent®), pirbuterol (Maxair®), or terbutaline (Brethaire®).

This medicine may cause paradoxical bronchospasm, which means your breathing or wheezing will get worse. This may be life-threatening. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have coughing, difficulty breathing, or wheezing after using this medicine.

Talk to your doctor or get medical help right away if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve or they become worse after using this medicine.
  • Your inhaler does not seem to be working as well as usual and you need to use it more often.

You or your child may also be taking an antiinflammatory medicine, including steroid (cortisone-like medicine), together with this medicine. Do not stop taking the antiinflammatory medicine, even if your asthma seems better, unless your doctor tells you to.

Albuterol may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child develop a skin rash, hives, itching, trouble breathing or swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine.

Hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) may occur while you are using this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have decreased urine, dry mouth, increased thirst, irregular heartbeat, loss of appetite, mood changes, muscle pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips, trouble breathing, seizures, or unusual tiredness or weakness.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines for appetite control, asthma, colds, cough, hay fever, or sinus problems, and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take ProAir HFA?

ProAir HFA is contraindicated in people with a history of an allergic reaction to albuterol or any other inhalation aerosol ingredients.

Avoid using ProAir HFA if you're hypersensitive to milk protein.

The safety of ProAir HFA has not been established for people under age 4.

There is no clinical data on the safety of ProAir HFA in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consult your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What Other Medications Interact With ProAir HFA?

Beta-blockers may not work effectively if taken with ProAir. Examples of beta-blockers are:

  • Tenormin (atenolol)
  • Coreg (carvedilol)
  • Toprol XL, Lopressor (metoprolol)
  • Bystolic (nebivolol)
  • Inderal LA (propranolol)

Diuretics may cause lower potassium levels in the body when taken with ProAir HFA, such as:

  • Bumex (bumetanide)
  • Thalitone (chlorthalidone)
  • Lasix (furosemide)
  • Microzide (hydrochlorothiazide)

When taken with albuterol, blood levels of digoxin (Lanoxin) may decrease and become less effective in treating heart disease. Your healthcare provider may need to monitor the level closely to find the effectiveness of the digoxin. 

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and ProAir combined can lead to an increased risk of heart problems. Albuterol should NOT be used at least two weeks before starting or two weeks after stopping MAOIs such as:

  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Azilect (rasagiline)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)
  • Emsam, Zelapar (selegiline)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)

Tricyclic antidepressants can increase the risk of heart problems when used with ProAir. ProAir should be used at least two weeks after stopping taking tricyclic antidepressants such as:

  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Silenor (doxepin)
  • Pamelor (nortriptyline)

Your healthcare provider may need to adjust the dose of your medications or monitor you closely for side effects.

What Medications Are Similar?

Albuterol, a bronchodilator, is also available in other brand names prescribed for the same conditions. These are:

  • Ventolin HFA
  • Proventil HFA

The following are both short-acting beta-agonists, like albuterol, but are different (metaproterenol).

  • Xopenex HFA
  • Alupent

These medicines are approved to prevent and treat bronchospasm in people with asthma. They’re also each approved for use as needed to avoid exercise-induced bronchospasm. They are used in adults and children ages 4 and older.

Ventolin HFA comes in canisters that hold either 60 or 200 inhalations of medicine. ProAir HFA and Proventil HFA come in canisters with 200 inhalations of medicine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is ProAir HFA used for?

    ProAir HFA (albuterol) is a short-acting bronchodilator used to relieve lung problems such as bronchospasm from asthma and reversible obstructive airway disease.

  • How does ProAir HFA work?

    ProAir HFA (albuterol) relaxes the airway muscles so they remain open. This helps ease breathing and relieve other symptoms of lung diseases.

  • What drugs should not be taken with ProAir HFA?

    Beta-blockers, diuretics, digoxin, monoaminoxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and tricyclic antidepressants cannot be taken with ProAir HFA.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking ProAir HFA?

Albuterol is meant to be a rescue treatment for symptoms of bronchospasm. Short-acting albuterol and other beta-agonists should not be used regularly to control asthma or other lung problems. However, your healthcare provider will determine the need, safety, and effectiveness of the medicine for you. 

Use your inhaler appropriately and always keep a backup to avoid any problem from accidental loss or a nonfunctioning inhaler, as this can be life-threatening. It's essential to regularly keep appointments with your healthcare provider to continue monitoring and talking about your symptoms and see if you may need to change treatment.

It's common for the ProAir inhaler to become clogged with powder residue. People may think the inhaler is broken when the delivery device simply needs to be cleaned/rinsed out. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about how best to clean your ProAir inhaler.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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