Aminophylline (Oral)

Aminophylline is a medication used to treat and prevent shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulty breathing associated with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other lung diseases.


Aminophylline is a prescription medication used to treat the symptoms associated with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other diseases of the lungs. It treats symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Aminophylline works by relaxing and opening the air passages in the lungs, making breathing easier for the patient. Aminophylline comes in tablet, suppository, and syrup form and can be taken orally, rectally or intravenously. Follow the directions given by your doctor, as well as information contained in the patient information leaflet that comes with the medication. Do not take more or less than the recommended dosage prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Aminophylline controls the symptoms of certain diseases of the lungs, but it is not a cure for these ailments. It can improve the quality of life for patients suffering from the above-mentioned diseases by allowing them to breathe properly and return to their normal daily routine.

Condition(s) treated

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Other lung diseases

Type of Medicine

  • Xanthine

Side Effects

Aminophylline can cause several unwanted side effects, some more common than others. Some rare side effects of this medication include:

  • Skin rash
  • Red, swollen skin
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Loss of heat from the body

Other side effects include:

  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Increase in urine output
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures

Some symptoms are serious and require emergency medical treatment because they are signs of an overdose. These symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Mood changes
  • Confusion about place, time and identity
  • General confusion
  • Decrease in urine output
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet, hands, or lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Shakiness in the hands, arms, legs, or feet
  • Difficulty passing urine (dribbling)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Decrease in frequency of urination
  • Vomiting blood or what looks like coffee grounds
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, arms, or back
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular pulse or heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Lightheadedness, faintness, or dizziness when standing up suddenly from a sitting or lying position
  • Increased thirst
  • Unusual weakness or tiredness
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Painful urination
  • Sweating

For some side effects, it isn't known how frequent or rare they are. These symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability

Side effects not listed here may occur in some patients. If you start to notice side effects not mentioned above, talk to your healthcare provider, especially if they've become severe.


This medication should be used as directed by your doctor. Read all patient information regarding aminophylline given to you and follow the instructions carefully. This medication may be taken with or without food.

Aminophylline is usually taken every 6, 8, or 12 hours with a glass of water. Follow the directions on the label to prevent accidental overdose. If you still have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain anything you don't understand.

To treat obstruction of airway due to asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g., chronic bronchitis or emphysema), adults, teenagers and children over age 1 weighing more than 45 kilograms (kg)--or 99 pounds (lbs)--should take 380 milligrams (mg) per day every 6 to 8 hours. Your doctor will adjust your dosage according to your body weight. Typically, you won't be instructed to take more than 760 milligrams (mg) per day.

Adults over age 65 must have their dosage determined by their doctor. For patients of this age, dosage is usually not more than 507 milligrams per day. It's also typically taken every 6 to 8 hours.

Children and teenagers who weigh less than 99 pounds must have their dosage determined by their doctor as well, as dosage is based on body weight. The typical dosage is 15.2 to 17.7 milligrams (mg) per kg of body weight per day, given in equal doses every 4 to 6 hours. Dosage for patients in this group may have their dosages adjusted as needed, however, the overall dose is normally not more than 25.3 milligrams per kg of body weight per day, or 760 milligrams (mg) per day.

Infants under one year of age must have their dosage determined by a doctor.

Do not chew or crush extended-release tablets, as this can release all of the drug at once, increasing the side effects. This medication is intended to be released little by little over time. Do not split the tablets unless your doctor tells you to do so. In this case, the aminophylline tablet may have a score line and you'll be instructed on exactly what to do with the medication after opening it. If you're not given these instructions, it likely means you aren't supposed to be doing it. Swallow each tablet whole without chewing it.

If you have difficulty swallowing, the capsules may be a better option for you. Open the capsules and mix the medication with soft food. Never chew the medication beads.

The Theo-24 capsules should be taken on an empty stomach. Do not take these capsules with fatty foods, as mixing them with a high-fat content meal can increase the peak serum theophylline concentration, which may result in toxicity.

Administer the syrup form of aminophylline using a calibrated measuring device to make sure you're giving yourself the correct dosage.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is near the time for your next dose. If that's the case, skip the missed dose and return to your normal dosing schedule. Never double up on doses.


Aminophylline is known to interact with several other medications. Currently, it is known to have 48 major drug reactions, 226 moderate drug interactions and 51 minor drug interactions.

Some of the major drug interactions include:

  • Acebutolol
  • Adempas (riociguat)
  • Atenolol
  • Betagan (levobunolol ophthalmic)
  • Blocadren (timolol)
  • Betaxolol
  • Bupropion
  • Betimol (timolol phthalmic)
  • Carteolol
  • ConZip (tramadol)
  • Cipro (ciprofloxacin)
  • Deferasirox
  • Enoxacin
  • Esmolol
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Halothane
  • Iohexol
  • Iopamidol
  • Labetalol
  • Metrizamide
  • Metoprolol
  • Mexiletine
  • Nadolol
  • Nebivolol
  • Penbutolol
  • Propranolol
  • Pindolol
  • Sotalol
  • Tramadol
  • Timolol

Some moderate drug interactions include:

  • Aminoglutethimide
  • Acetaminophen/butalbital
  • Amiodarone
  • Amobarbital
  • Anakinra
  • Arformoterol
  • Adalimumab
  • Adenosine
  • Atracurium
  • Albuterol
  • Bitolterol
  • Blinatumomab
  • Budesonide
  • ┬áButabarbital
  • Cisatracurium
  • Clarithromycin
  • Canakinumab
  • Carbamazepine
  • Colesevelam
  • Cortisone
  • Charcoal
  • Disulfiram
  • Doxacurium
  • Doxycycline
  • Dexamethasone
  • Estradiol
  • Famotidine
  • Fluconazole
  • Ginkgo
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Indacaterol
  • Ketamine
  • Lithium
  • Liotrix
  • Mivacurium
  • Metaproterenol
  • Norethindrone
  • Ofloxacin
  • Pipecuronium
  • Prednisone
  • Primidone
  • Salmeterol
  • Sarilumab
  • Tacrine
  • Triamcinolone
  • Tetracycline
  • Trandolapril
  • Vecuronium
  • Zileuton

Some minor drug interactions include:

  • Acyclovir
  • Allopurinol/lesinurad
  • Alprazolam
  • Amitriptyline/chlordiazepoxide
  • Allopurinol
  • Billberry/evening primrose/flax
  • Carbetapentane/chlorpheniramine/ephedrine/phenylephrine
  • Clobazam
  • Clonazepam
  • Clorazepate
  • Dirithromycin
  • Diazepam
  • Enelapril/felodipine
  • Ephedrine nasal
  • Estazolam
  • Evening primrose
  • Flurazepam
  • Furosemide
  • Halazepam
  • Ketoconazole
  • Lansoprazole
  • Lorazepam
  • Ma huang
  • Moricizine
  • Mycophenolic acid
  • Midazolam
  • Nisoldipine
  • Nefedipine
  • Oxazepam
  • Propofol
  • Quazepam
  • Riluzole
  • Roflumilast
  • Sulfinpyrazone
  • Temazepam
  • Triazolam
  • Tocainide

Certain medical conditions can also interact with the effectiveness of aminophylline. Such conditions include:

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Cor Pulmonale (heart condition)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Severe infection (such as sepsis)
  • Liver disease (such as hepatitis or cirrhosis)
  • Shock (a serious condition in which very little blood flows throughout the body)
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Heart rhythm (such as arrhythmia)
  • History of seizures
  • Fever of 102 degrees F or higher for 24 hours or longer

Aminophylline is sure to make these conditions worse, therefore, it's best to speak to your doctor if you have these conditions prior to taking this medication.


Tell your doctor if you've ever had an allergic reaction to aminophylline, or any ingredients contained in this medication. Similarly, if you're allergic to any medications similar to aminophylline, tell your healthcare provider prior to taking this medication. Discuss whether you have previously had an allergic reaction to theophylline, ethylenediamine, preservatives, or food dyes. Talk to your doctor about any other food or drug allergies you might have. If you have signs of an allergic reaction, seek emergency medical treatment right away. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, rash, wheezing, itching, cough, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, face, throat, or tongue, or any other signs. If your symptoms do not improve, talk to your doctor.

Aminophylline can cause dizziness. Do not drive, use heavy machinery, or perform any activity that requires you to be alert until you know how this medication will affect you, and you're sure that you can perform these activities safely.

This medication can interact with other drugs, so be sure to let your doctor know what other prescription or OTC drugs you're taking. This includes vitamins, natural products, supplements, or similar products. Your doctor can inform you of what medications are safe to take with aminophylline. Do not start or stop any medications without checking with your doctor. Do not change your dose of any current medications you're taking without consulting your doctor beforehand.

Tell your doctor especially if you're taking cimetidine (Tagamet), allopurinol (Zyloprim), azithromycin (Zithromax), carbamazepine (Tegretol), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), clarithryomycin (Biaxin), diuretics ('water pills'), oral contraceptives, proprandolol, lithium (Lithobid, Eskalith), erythromycin, prednisone (Deltasone), tetracycline (Sumycin), rifampin (Rifadin), and other medications for heart disease or infections.

Some special diets can change the effect of aminophylline. For instance, a high protein/low carb or high carb/low protein diet can cause problems while taking this medication.

Tell all of your healthcare providers (including dentists, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) that you're taking aminophylline prior to receiving care. Tell your dentist if you're having oral surgery, and tell any other doctors you may be seeing that you're taking this medication, especially before surgery.

If you're seeing more than one type of doctor, make sure all of your doctors know which medications you're currently taking. Tell your doctor if you've ever had heart disease, high blood pressure, an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, liver disease, or a history of alcohol abuse. If you have diabetes (high blood sugar), your doctor may need to monitor your blood sugar closely, or you may be required to.

Aminophylline can affect certain laboratory tests, so it's important to talk to your doctor about any tests you have scheduled while taking this medication. Your doctor may need to check your blood regularly while you're taking this medication. If you have hay fever, get sick, or have a long-term illness that's worsening, talk to your doctor.

Limit your caffeine consumption while taking aminophylline, including coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Caffeine is a CNS stimulant. Consuming too much caffeine while taking this medication can cause nausea, a fast heartbeat, irritability, shakiness and nervousness. Other adverse reactions include seizures, tremors, insomnia, and cardiac arrhythmias.

If you smoke cigarettes, talk to your doctor about how much you smoke. Your doctor may recommend that you smoke less, depending on how many you smoke per day, as cigarette smoking can affect the effectiveness of this medication.

If you're over age 60, use this medication with caution, as your risk of side effects are increased. You have a higher risk of experiencing more side effects than normal while on aminophylline. Your doctor may need to monitor your blood levels while you're taking this medication.

If you're pregnant, or you plan on getting pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking aminophylline, as you need to discuss the risks and benefits of using this medication while you're pregnant. If you plan on breastfeeding, or are currently breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about the risks to your baby as certain medications can be passed into breast milk. A panel of experts believe aminophylline can cause stimulation and irritability in infants. Newborns and preterm infants are more likely to be affected.

Children typically should not take aminophylline because they might be more sensitive to the effects of the medication. However, if your doctor does prescribe aminophylline to your child, they may need to be monitored more carefully. For instance, your doctor may monitor your child's drug blood levels, side effects, and may adjust the dosage to suit your child.

Do not use this medication to treat severe flare-ups of shortness of breath. Instead, use a rescue inhaler and talk with your doctor before doing so. Do not let anyone use the medication and do not use anyone else's medication.

Keep this medication out of reach of children. Do not keep weekly pill reminders where children can reach it, as these containers are not usually child-resistant - unlike most medication bottles. Always lock safety caps that are not child-resistant and place the medication in a safe location.

Aminophylline does not work right away and should not be used for sudden attacks of breathing trouble. In case of an emergency in which you cannot breathe, your doctor should prescribe you a quick-relief inhaler (typically albuterol) for asthma attacks or other breathing problems while you're taking aminophylline. Always keep your quick relief inhaler with you in case you experience trouble breathing while out of the house. Talk to your doctor about how you can get one, if you don't already have one.

Do not switch from one brand of aminophylline to another without talking to your healthcare provider first. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about refilling your prescription.


Keep this medication in a closed container away from extreme moisture, heat or light. Ideally, this medication should be stored at room temperature. Never freeze this medication.

Keep this medication out of sight and reach of children.

Throw away any unused medication, or medication that has expired. But do not flush it down the toilet or throw it in the trash. Ask you doctor or pharmacist about safe ways to disposed of unused or expired medication. You can even try contacting your community garbage or recycling plant about local take-back programs.


While Aminophylline is a greatly beneficial drug, it can pose problems for patients who aren't forthcoming with important medical information, such as which prescription and OTC drugs are currently being taken. As a medication designed to alleviate the symptoms of lung diseases like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma, aminophylline helps relax and open the air passages, which improves breathing and decreases the lungs' response to irritants. This medication can improve the quality of life for patients with ongoing lung diseases by decreasing the amount of time lost from school or work. Combining this medication with certain other medications can cause an increase in side effects, such as seizures, vomiting, and dizziness.

When taken correctly, aminophylline can provide relief of the symptoms of chronic lung diseases. Whether the patient suffers from asthma or chronic bronchitis, aminophylline can alleviate the symptoms patients may suffer from. In some cases, this means that patients can enjoy more time doing things they love without worry. To achieve these results, patients can work with their doctors to figure out the best dosage for the patient's age, weight, and the severity of the condition. Even if patients begin feeling better after the first few doses, they should continue to take the medication until they complete the full course of treatment.

Last Reviewed:
December 10, 2017
Last Updated:
April 02, 2018