Category:Respiratory Medications

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Respiratory medications treat conditions related to the lungs and breathing. Some of these drugs are sold over the counter, while others are only available only with a doctor's prescription.

There is a wide variety of respiratory medications on the market to treat impaired breathing function. Some products, such as mucolytic drugs, decongestants and expectorants, treat buildup of mucous that may block the airways and obstruct breathing. Drugs called antitussives suppress coughing by depressing function of the throat or lungs. Antihistamines help stop the body's allergic response system in order to treat congestion in the breathing passages. Bronchodilators work on the smooth muscles of the throat to help ease symptoms such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD, while anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids treat chronic asthma and COPD.[1]


Flickr: Bill Selak
Uses Treat medical conditions that affect breathing[1]
Administration Oral, nasal spray, inhalation[1]
Types Mucolytic drugs, expectorants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, corticosteroids[1]
Prescription needed? Some respiratory medications require prescriptions[1]
Warnings Inhaled corticosteroids do not affect asthma attacks that have already started[2]
Disclaimer The information provided by is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not take any action based on the information on this page without consulting a physician.
Author Susan MacDowell


About Respiratory Medications

  • Mucomyst® is an example of a mucalytic drug, and works by thinning mucous in the airways to help patients breathe more easily.
  • Robitussin® is a type of expectorant, and works by reducing the adhesiveness of mucous so that users may cough it up.
  • Afrin® is an example of a decongestant nasal spray, while Sudafed® is an oral decongestant; both ease congestion by restricting blood flow to nasal mucosa.
  • Codeine is an antitussive and eases coughing by depressing cough receptors; however, codeine is a narcotic with the potential for abuse.
  • Benadryl® is an example of an antihistamine, and blocks H1receptors to prevent swelling and itching.
  • Inhaled medications for asthma and COPD include Singulair® and Pulmocort®.[1]
  • Some inhaled medications, such as Advair® and Symbicort®, contain a combination of drugs to prevent asthma and COPD attacks.[3]

About Inhaled Corticosteroids

For patients who require long-term treatment of asthma or COPD, inhaled corticosteroids are a common treatment option because they prevent attacks before they start. These drugs go directly to the lungs upon inhalation, creating fewer side effects than oral treatments. However, inhaled corticosteroids may cause infections of the mouth or throat.[2]

Drug Side Effects

Drug Side Effects


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