June 23, 2022

Benefits, side effects and more

Short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs) are a class of bronchodilators used to quickly treat asthma symptoms. They are mainly inhaled via a rescue inhaler or nebulizer. You can take them at the first signs of an asthma attack.

Although SABAs are an important part of any asthma treatment plan, they should not be considered your primary form of treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about BACAs, how they’re used, and when you should consider other medications to help manage your asthma.

SABA medications belong to a class of drugs called bronchodilators. They relax the small muscles in your bronchi (airways) to help expand or open them, making it easier to breathe. Also, if you have excess mucus in your airways, SABAs can help you cough up more freely.

SABA medications are one of the most effective ways to get immediate relief from airway obstruction, especially in people with asthma.

A doctor may recommend SABA medicine to help prevent asthma attacks. During an asthma attack, your airways become inflamed and constricted, making it harder to breathe. Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • wheezing
  • to cough
  • chest tightness
  • faster breathing
  • difficulty breathing deeply

Most asthma attacks are mild and can be treated with SABA medicine at home. However, their duration may depend on what triggers them. Examples include:

Do all people with asthma need ABCA?

Traditionally, SABAs are recommended for anyone with asthma in case of emergency symptoms of an asthma attack. This usually comes in the form of a quick-relief (rescue) inhaler, which can also be used before exercising in case of exercise-induced asthma.

However, in recent years, researchers have raised concerns about using SABAs in this way because of possible overdependence.

Why is SABA treatment alone not recommended?

SABAs are intended to help quickly relieve asthma symptoms only on an occasional basis. Overuse of SABAs has been related to worsening asthma symptoms and poor overall outcomes.

Also, if you need SABA medication more than twice a week, it could indicate that your treatment plan is not working. You may need to speak with a doctor to make changes to your asthma treatment plan.

SABA medications – especially the generic versions – are usually covered by medical insurance as well as Medicare.

Although the exact cost may vary by insurance, pharmacy and region, you may be able to purchase a generic SABA inhaler for as little as $8 per prescription.

Anyone with asthma should consider having a rescue inhaler on hand in case they encounter asthma triggers and need quick symptom relief.

In some cases, these drugs can be lifesaving. Your doctor will prescribe the best SABA for you as part of your asthma treatment plan.

You may also be a good candidate for SABA drugs If you:

In most cases, take your reliever inhaler as soon as you start to feel the symptoms of an asthma attack. SABA drugs can also be taken to help prevent exercise-induced asthma 15 to 30 minutes before vigorous exercise.

SABA medications can be used as part of an asthma treatment plan to help provide rapid symptom relief in the event of an asthma attack. If you have exercise-induced asthma, a doctor may also recommend using a quick-relief inhaler before vigorous activities.

Still, SABAs aren’t the only asthma treatment option available, and they can cause unwanted side effects when used regularly for asthma management.

If you’re having trouble managing your asthma, talk to your doctor about your current asthma treatment plan and the need for any changes.


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