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Bronchodilators for RSV Infection in Children


Generic Name Brand Name
albuterol Proventil, Ventolin

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 (bronchioles camera.gif), 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

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking the medicine unless your doctor says so.

Call your doctor right away if your child has:

Call your doctor if your child has:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Feeling hyperactive, anxious, or nervous.
  • Tremor (such as unsteady, shaky hands).
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations.

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

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(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.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised June 25, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 25, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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