COPD Home > Info on Combivent's Effects and Treatment Instructions

How Does It Work?

The albuterol component of Combivent belongs to a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic receptor agonists, or beta agonists for short. Beta agonists stimulate beta receptors in the body, including those on the muscles around the airways. This stimulation causes the muscles to relax, which opens up the airways and allows more air into and out of the lungs.
The other component of Combivent (ipratropium) belongs to a group of medications known as anticholinergics or antimuscarinics. By binding to specific receptors in the airways, called muscarinic receptors, ipratropium helps to relax the smooth muscle of the airways and allow more air into and out of the lungs.

Effects of Combivent

Studies have compared Combivent to its two components (used separately) in people with COPD. These studies have shown that Combivent improved lung function more than when either ipratropium or albuterol were used alone. Also, Combivent began working within 15 minutes, and the effects of a dose lasted about four to five hours, on average.

When and How to Take Combivent

General considerations for when and how to take the old Combivent inhaler include the following:
  • The medication comes in a metered-dose inhaler (called an "MDI"). It is usually taken four times a day, although sometimes more frequent dosing is necessary.
  • You should "test-spray" each Combivent inhaler before your first use of it or if you have not used it for more than 24 hours. To test-spray the inhaler, simply spray it into the air three times by pressing on the top of the canister.
  • Make sure to shake the inhaler vigorously for at least 10 seconds just before each spray.
  • It is important to learn exactly how to use your inhaler. It may be difficult at first and require some practice.
  • The spray should be inhaled into the lungs, not sprayed onto the back of the throat and swallowed. To accomplish this, you will need to breathe in while spraying the inhaler. Hold your breath for 10 seconds after each spray, and wait about two minutes between sprays (don't forget to vigorously shake the canister again).
  • Most people put the mouthpiece of the inhaler directly into their mouths. However, many healthcare professionals now recommend placing the inhaler an inch or two away from the mouth. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way for you to use the inhaler. If you have difficulty using it, your healthcare provider may recommend a spacer, a device that makes it easier to use the inhaler.
  • Each inhaler contains 200 sprays. Try to keep track of how many sprays you have used, as it can be difficult to tell if the canister is empty. The canister may keep spraying after 200 sprays, but you cannot be sure that you are getting a full dose of Combivent after 200 sprays have been used.
  • For Combivent to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. The medication will not work if you stop taking it.
For the new Combivent Respimat inhaler, follow these steps:
  • For the first use, activate the inhaler by inserting the canister into the inhaler (if you are unsure how to do this, refer to the product instructions or ask your pharmacist). Once you have correctly inserted the canister, it should never be removed.
  • Prime the inhaler until a fine mist appears (once again, if you are unsure how to do this, refer to the product instructions or ask your pharmacist).
  • Turn the base of the inhaler until it clicks, preparing the dose.
  • Breathe out slowly and fully; then seal your lips around the mouthpiece (being careful not to cover the vents), pointing the inhaler toward the back of the throat.
  • While taking in a slow, deep breath through your mouth, press the dose release button and continue to breathe in slowly for as long as you can.
  • Hold your breath for ten seconds or for as long as comfortable.
  • If you haven’t used the inhaler for three days, prepare the inhaler by spraying a dose toward the ground. If it has been more than 21 days since the inhaler has been used, you need to fully reprime it.
  • The Respimat inhaler automatically locks once it is empty.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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