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Bronchodilator Medicines for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection


Generic NameBrand Name
albuterolProventil-HFA, Ventolin-HFA, Adrenaline
epinephrineProventil-HFA, Ventolin-HFA, Adrenaline
terbutalineProventil-HFA, Ventolin-HFA, Adrenaline

These medicines may be given by inhaler, nebulizer, injection, or mouth (orally).

How It Works

Bronchodilators (beta-adrenergic medicines) relax the muscle layer that surrounds the small breathing tubes (bronchiolesClick here to see an illustration.), allowing the tubes to expand and move air more easily.

Why It Is Used

Bronchodilators may be used to treat wheezing, a problem that can occur from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection.

  • Often a child who wheezes is given a single treatment by nebulizer to see whether the medicine reduces wheezing. Some children will improve with these medicines.
  • If wheezing is less after one dose of a bronchodilator, the medicine is usually added to the child's treatment plan.

Bronchodilators are commonly used for asthma and similar problems. They act quickly when given by nebulizer, metered-dose inhaler, or injection to improve breathing and reduce wheezing.

How Well It Works

Bronchodilators relax the small tubes in the lungs. About half the time, they help babies who have RSV breathe easier.1

Side Effects

Side effects of bronchodilators include:

  • Anxiety, agitation, or hyperactivity.
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Side effects are more likely to occur with oral or injected medicine. These side effects are less common when the medicine is inhaled.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The use of bronchodilators in children is controversial. Research so far has not shown consistent long-term benefit for most children.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Horga MA, Moscona A (2006). Respiratory syncytial virus. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 793–797. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last RevisedNovember 1, 2010

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