Asthma Home > Clinical Effects and Treatment Guidelines for Proventil

How Does Proventil Work?

Normally, air moves easily into and out of the lungs through a network of airways. But during an asthma attack, the muscles around these airways tighten. This narrows the airways and makes it harder to breathe. This is called bronchospasm.
Proventil is part of a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic receptor agonists, or beta agonists for short. Beta agonists stimulate beta receptors in the body, including those on the muscles around airways. This stimulation causes the muscles to relax, which opens up the airways and allows more air to get into and through the lungs.
Proventil also has some effects on decreasing the activity of mast cells in the lungs, which play an important role in inflammation and allergic reactions.

Effects of Proventil

In clinical studies, Proventil began to work to improve breathing in people with asthma attacks within 15 minutes, and its effects lasted about three to four hours, on average. In some people, the effects lasted as long as six hours. Studies have also shown that taking Proventil 15 minutes before exercise can help prevent exercise-induced asthma symptoms.

When and How to Take It

Some general considerations for when and how to take Proventil include the following:
  • Proventil comes in a metered-dose inhaler (called an MDI).
  • Some people take Proventil only when they need it during an asthma attack, while others take it regularly to help prevent attacks.
  • You should test-spray a Proventil inhaler before your first use of it, or if you have not used it for a long period of time. To test-spray the inhaler, spray it into the air by pressing on the top of the canister.
  • Shake your inhaler gently before each use.
  • It is important to learn exactly how to use your inhaler. It may be difficult at first and may require practice.
  • The spray should be inhaled into the lungs, not sprayed onto the back of the throat and swallowed. To accomplish this, you will need to breathe in while spraying the inhaler.
  • Most people put the mouthpiece of the inhaler directly into their mouths. However, many healthcare professionals now recommend placing the inhaler an inch or two away from the mouth. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way for you to use it.
  • Each inhaler contains 200 sprays. Try to keep track of approximately how many sprays you have used in order to know when to replace the inhaler. Do not place the inhaler in water to see if it is empty (although doing so was recommended in the past).
  • For Proventil to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. The medication will not work if you stop taking it.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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