For those who battle recurring asthma symptoms and attacks, reaching for your rescue inhaler may be an all too familiar experience. Stress, environmental triggers, and exercise can cause wheezing and shortness of breath that require immediate relief. Albuterol inhalation aerosol has proven to be an effective form of treatment.
More than likely, your rescue inhaler is something you don’t need daily, so it may expire long before you think to check. Most inhalers retain their potency for a year after the expiration date given by the manufacturer, but there are several aspects to consider when taking medication that is expired or impaired in some way.
Always read the label and take only as directed.
What is Albuterol?
Albuterol inhalation aerosol or powder is a treatment for people suffering from breathing difficulties usually brought on by exercise. The aerosol form comes in common brands such as Proair HFA, Proventil HFA, and Ventolin HFA.
It is generally prescribed to adults and children four years of age and older, and the powder (Proair Respiclick) is used in children 12 years of age and older.
Albuterol relaxes and opens the air passages to the lungs to help alleviate the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness caused by asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
How does albuterol work?
Using a special jet nebulizer, albuterol sulfate inhalers turn the liquid medication into a mist to be inhaled. Albuterol inhalation aerosol is indicated for treating or preventing bronchospasm in patients 4 years of age and older with reversible obstructive airway disease.
It is also indicated for the prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm in patients 4 years of age and older. The medication may be administered every four to six hours. To prevent breathing difficulties during exercise, albuterol can be administered 15 – 30 minutes before exercise.
It is best to always read the label and use it only as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.
Does Albuterol Expire?
All medications, including albuterol will eventually break down and expire. However, it doesn’t mean it becomes harmful as soon as it expires.
A study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the request of the military discovered that 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly safe to use even exceeding 15 years after the written expiration date.
Where to find the expiration date
The expiration date is located on the packaging and canister of your rescue inhaler.
It is important to note that the effectiveness of your inhaler can also be affected if the canister is punctured or not stored correctly in a cool, dry place.
Possible effects of using expired albuterol
The main risk of using an expired rescue inhaler is that the drug’s potency will not be as great as a new inhaler.
This is because the active ingredients in albuterol sulfate inhalers can break down over time, so the medication is then not as strong as a new inhaler.
While it is unlikely that the expired medicine can pose additional health risks, your symptoms may not be as effectively treated, and thus ongoing symptoms and attacks may occur.
Untreated asthma attacks can be dangerous and life-threatening, depending on their severity.
What to do if I only have expired albuterol?
If you are seeking immediate relief and expired albuterol is all that is available to you, it is safe to take but may not be as effective as one that hasn’t expired.
For more severe cases of asthma, expired albuterol may not be enough to alleviate symptoms and attacks.
It is recommended that those with ongoing issues always have a rescue inhaler that is in date to avoid emergency situations.
How to Safely Store Albuterol
You can prolong the life of your albuterol sulfate inhaler by doing the following:
- Keep the product in a cool, dry place, ideally at a controlled room temperature of 77°F.
- Avoid storing the product in a place with direct sunlight, high temperature, or where there are changes in humidity.
- Keep the product in its original packaging and away from other items that might puncture the canister.
- Replace the cap after use as this can help maintain the pressure in the canister.
- Properly clean your asthma inhaler once a week.
How to Get Albuterol
Albuterol is available by prescription.
When you visit your healthcare provider, they can write you a prescription for an albuterol inhaler during your appointment and discuss other ways you can control your symptoms to alleviate frequent asthma attacks.
You can also refill your asthma prescription at K Health online here without an in-person doctor visit.
In addition to prescription inhalers, there are also OTC treatment options for asthma, including Primatene Mist which is available at most pharmacies.
We recommend discussing this with your doctor first, as most patients with asthma will need a stronger rescue inhaler that can only be prescribed by a doctor.
When to See a Medical Provider for Asthma
Common signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Wheezing when you inhale or exhale
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Feeling faint or weak
- Difficulty doing routine activities
If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, see a medical provider who can find the right treatment for you.
For patients with asthma, you should speak with a medical provider if you feel you need more than the prescribed amount or if you are taking the medication and your symptoms are worsening.
Asthma attacks can be potentially life-threatening. You should go to urgent care or the emergency department when there is no improvement in your symptoms after taking your rescue inhaler.
For any of the following severe symptoms, visit urgent care or go to an emergency department:
- Your lips or nails are turning blue
- Flared nostrils when you inhale
- You are taking more than 30 breaths per minute
- The skin between your ribs or at the base of your throat appears stretched every time you breathe in
- Talking or walking at a normal pace leaves you feeling faint, dizzy, or exhausted
Manage Asthma with K Health
Now you can manage asthma from home using K Health.
Get an albuterol inhaler online in three easy steps:
- Answer a few simple questions.
- Meet your primary care provider.
- Get the care you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Asthma Facts and Figures. (2022).
Drug expiry debate: the myth and the reality. (2019).
The impact of expired and empty quick-relief asthma inhalers: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's Asthma Inhaler Design Survey. (2015).