All the familiar asthma symptomscoughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathingoccur because the airways of the lungs, known as bronchial tubes, become narrowed and inflamed. During an exacerbation or asthma attack, the airways can become especially inflamed.
The fast-acting version of the drugs known as bronchodilators help relieve (and prevent) asthma attacks by relaxing the muscles lining the bronchial tubes. They are often delivered with an inhaler, but they are also available in a liquid that can be used in a nebulizer, a device that delivers a drug in a mist that can be inhaled via a mask or mouthpiece.
Bronchodilator drug names include albuterol (Proventil; Ventolin; ProAir), levalbuterol (Xopenex), and pirbuterol (Maxair).