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Bronchodilators are medicines that help open the Bronchial Tubes (airways) of the lungs, allowing more air to flow through them.

People with Asthma have trouble breathing, because their airways are inflamed and become narrowed. Normally, air moves smoothly from the mouth and nose through the airways and into the tiny air sacs of the lungs as a person breathes in. Breathing out (exhaling) happens automatically when the person stops breathing in.

In a person with Asthma, breathing in (inhaling) is not a problem. Incoming air can slide around the blockage, because the act of breathing in makes the airways expand. The problem comes when the person with asthma tries to breathe out. The air can no longer get past the blockage, and it remains trapped in the lungs. The person can then only take shallow breaths. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the smooth muscles that line the airways. This makes the airways open wider and allows air to leave the lungs. These drugs also are used to relieve breathing problems associated with Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

Some Bronchodilators are inhaled, using a Nebulizer or an inhalation Aerosol. Others are taken as injections or by mouth. Most are available only by prescription, but a few, such as Ephedrine, can be bought without a physician's prescription. Examples of Bronchodilators are Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin), Epinephrine (Primatene), Ipratropium (Atrovent), Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel), and Terbutaline (Brethine).