Synonyms: Inhaler

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

A bronchodilator is any drug, medicine or substance that causes the bronchial tubes of the respiratory tract to dilate, relaxing the bronchial muscles and increasing oxygenated airflow to the lungs.

In Our Own Words

Bronchodilators are most commonly referred to as types of medications that help relax and widen (or “dilate”) the air passages to your lungs, making it much easier to breathe deeply and clearly, especially if you or a loved one suffers from asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The medicinal action of inhaled bronchodilators typically starts within minutes of use, lasts for several hours, and proves to be a great source of relief for people who suffer from asthma. Interestingly, quick-acting bronchodilators can be used before any type of higher-intensity activity (such as jogging or biking) to help prevent exercise-induced asthma and to allow active people to sustain a vigorous lifestyle. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Lung disorders
Common Types
  • Long-acting bronchodilators
  • Short-acting bronchodilators
Side Effects
  • Upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
Share this article
  • The American Heritage Dictionary. Fourth Edition copyright ©2008. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Accessed Feb. 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. Diseases and Conditions. “Treating Asthma with Bronchodilators.” Accessed April 2013.
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