Short-Acting Beta-Agonists Make an Appointment Ask a Question Search Conditions Short-acting beta-agonists works quickly to relieve acute symptoms of shortness of breath. Beta-agonists relax the smooth muscles around the airways. Your doctor may prescribe a beta-agonist to use as needed to relieve acute symptoms of shortness of breath. If you use this medicine for shortness of breath more than twice a week talk with your doctor. If you use more than one of these metered-dose inhalers in a month, also talk with your doctor. It is a sign that your lung disease is poorly controlled and your long-term control medications may need to be adjusted. Medicine name How the medicine works How the medicine is used Maxair Autohaler® (pirbuterol) Proventil HFA®, ProAir®, and Ventolin HFA® (albuterol) Xopenex® (levalbuterol) Works quickly to relieve acute attack symptoms Relax the smooth muscles around the airways Side effects may include: increased heart rate, shakiness, nervous, jittery feeling Available as MDI, nebulizer solution Usually prescribed on an as needed basis to relieve acute attack symptoms. May be prescribed as a "pre-treatment" before exercise to prevent symptoms of shortness of breath. If you use this medicine for shortness of breath more than twice a week talk with you doctor. If you use more than one metered-dose inhaler a month, also talk with your doctor or healthcare professional. This is a sign that your lung disease is not under good control and your long-term control medicine needs to be adjusted. This information has been approved by Ronina Covar, MD and Ann Mullen, RN, MSN, CNS, AE-C (December, 2012).