Quick-relief medications relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes so that air can flow freely through them. As noted earlier, these medications are called bronchodilators or beta-agonists because they connect rapidly to beta-receptors, causing them to work. These agents work well but act only for a short period of time. The most common agent in this category is albuterol (Proventil, Volmax); other common prescriptions are levalbuterol (Xopenex) and pirbuterol (Maxair). The advantage of the latter agent is that it is more selective and causes fewer side effects, such as palpitations and rapid heart beat. Its effects last for
6- 8 hours, whereas albuterol lasts for 4 - 6 hours. During severe acute attacks, it is often necessary to give these medications via continuous nebulization over a long period of time.
Salmeterol (Serevent) is a longer-acting inhaled beta-agonist, but it is still not a preventative medication. It can last up to 12 hours, so it is primarily used to control symptoms during the night. It should not be used during an acute attack. This product is no longer available alone, but is available as a combination medicine.