Epinephrine

What is Epinephrine?

Epinephrine is a bronchodilator used for the temporary relief of mild, intermittent asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. It is available over-the-counter (OTC) as a metered-dose inhaler that delivers an aerosolized dose of medication to the lungs. Epinephrine works by opening breathing passages to make breathing easier.

OTC medicines containing epinephrine should only be used by people who have been properly diagnosed with mild, intermittent asthma by a doctor. OTC medicines containing epinephrine are not a replacement for prescription asthma treatments. Patients with more severe asthma should not rely on medicines containing epinephrine and should work with their doctor to ensure an appropriate treatment plan for their condition.

What is epinephrine used to treat?

  • Symptoms of mild, intermittent asthma
Common brands containing epinephrine:
  • Primatene® Mist

How much epinephrine can you take?

Do not use medicines containing epinephrine unless you have been properly diagnosed with mild, intermittent asthma by a doctor or other healthcare provider. It is always important to read and follow the Drug Facts label. See a doctor  if your asthma symptoms get worse or if you need more than 8 inhalations in 24 hours.

Safety guide for epinephrine

Epinephrine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label.

Ask a healthcare provider before use if:

  • You have been hospitalized for asthma.
  • You have a history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, or narrow angle glaucoma.
  • You have experienced seizures.
  • You have experienced a psychiatric or emotional condition.
  • You have trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate gland.
  • You are taking prescription drugs for asthma, obesity, weight control, depression, or psychiatric or emotional conditions.
  • You are taking any drug that contains phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, or caffeine (such as for allergies, cough-cold, or pain).
  • You are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Do not use if:

  • You have not been diagnosed with mild, intermittent asthma by a doctor.
  • You are allergic to epinephrine.
  • You are taking a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (certain drugs taken for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease) or for 2 weeks after stopping the MAOI drug. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains an MAOI, ask a doctor or pharmacist.
  • You consume foods or beverages that contain caffeine.
  • You take dietary supplements containing ingredients reported or claimed to have a stimulant effect.
  • In children under 12 years of age.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • You are not better in 20 minutes or are getting worse.
  • You need more than 8 inhalations in any day.
  • You have more than 2 asthma attacks in a week.
  • You have difficulty sleeping.
  • You have a rapid heartbeat.
  • You have tremors, nervousness, or seizure.
  • You take too much. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.

What are the side effects of epinephrine?

  • Chronic trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Feeling weak
  • Head pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Shaking extremities
  • Loss of skin color