Terbutaline (Injection, Oral)

Terbutaline is a beta agonist prescription medicine that helps prevent and treat symptoms of asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.


Terbutaline helps treat a number of respiratory medical conditions, including chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. It opens and relaxes the airways, making breathing easier.

Terbutaline was approved in 1974 by the FDA. It's manufactured by many different pharmaceutical companies and comes under the brand name Brethine, Brethaire, and Bricanyl.

Terbutaline has been taken by women to put off premature labor for around 48 hours.

The medicine can trigger serious and occasionally lethal side effects in pregnant women and newborn babies.

Both the oral and injectable forms of Terbutaline have a black-box warning since they shouldn't be taken by pregnant women to prevent or stop prolonged labor (more than 48 hours and up to 72 hours).

Terbutaline should never be taken outside a hospital environment, clinic, or doctor's office to delay premature labor.

Before using Terbutaline, notify your doctor if you suffer from, or have ever suffered from these conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Adrenal gland tumor
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies to medicines

If you suffer from diabetes, you need to know that this medication can affect your level of blood glucose. Carefully check your blood glucose while using Terbutaline.

This medication shouldn't be taken by kids under the age of 12. Its effectiveness and safety hasn't been studied in this age set.

Call your physician promptly if your symptoms recur before your next Terbutaline dose, or if your medical condition gets worse while taking this medicine.

Terbutaline may help manage your symptoms but will not cure your medical condition. Don't stop using Terbutaline even when you feel better.

Don't stop using this medication without first consulting your doctor.

Let your healthcare professional know you're using Terbutaline before having any kind of operation, including dental surgery.

During pregnancy, Terbutaline should be taken only when it's really needed. Tell your healthcare giver if you're expecting or plan to conceive during your treatment. Make sure to discuss the positives and negatives of using this medication with your doctor.

It's unknown whether Terbutaline is released into milk. Speak to your physician before breastfeeding while using Terbutaline.

Conditions treated

Type of medicine

  • Beta agonist

Side effects

Other than its necessary effects, Terbutaline can cause several undesirable effects. While not all the side effects below can occur, if they happen they may require treatment.

Check with your primary healthcare giver right away if you feel any of these effects while using Terbutaline.

More common:

  • Shakiness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Trembling/shaking of the feet or hands

Less common:

  • Sweating
  • Extra heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheadedness, dizzy, or faint
  • Feeling of heat or warmth
  • Redness/flushing of skin, particularly on the neck and face
  • Headache


  • Muscle tightness or tension
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Excessive muscle tone
  • Crawling, burning, itching, prickling, numbness, tingling, or "pins and needles"feelings

Get emergency assistance promptly should any of these overdose symptoms happen while taking Terbutaline.

Symptoms of overdose:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Jaw, back, or arm pain
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Chest heaviness or tightness
  • Decreased urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Convulsions
  • Faintness, lightheadedness, or dizziness when getting up suddenly
  • Pounding, fast, or irregular pulse/heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • General feeling of illness or discomfort
  • Mood changes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle cramps or pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Trouble sleep
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Unusual tiredness/weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pounding in ears
  • Tingling/numbness in the lips, hands, or feet

Certain Terbutaline side effects can occur that normally don't require medical intervention. They may disappear during treatment as you adjust to the drug. See your physician if you have questions about these side effects, if they persist, or if they're troublesome. In addition, your healthcare giver can help you prevent or ease some of these effects.

More common:

  • Unusual drowsiness or sleepiness

Less common:

  • Anxiety
  • Loss or lack of strength


  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Itching/redness/soreness of skin
  • Blisters, sores, or welting
  • Feeling, hearing, or seeing things (hallucination)


Some medications aren't for patients with certain medical disorders, and sometimes a medication may be used only if extra caution is observed. For these reasons, it's important that your physician knows the following things before you or your child starts using Terbutaline:

  • If you're trying for a child, you're pregnant or nursing a baby. This is because it's especially vital that you have your breathing controlled properly if you're pregnant.
  • If you have hypertension, aka high blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes (high levels of sugar in your blood).
  • If you're been told that you have low potassium levels in your blood by your doctor.
  • If you're using any other drugs, for example nonprescription medicines, herbal medicines, and complementary medicines
  • If you've ever suffered an allergy to a medicine

Terbutaline comes in the form of an injection, an inhaler, and as an oral tablet.

The tablets are normally taken 3 times daily (once every 6 hours).

The injection is normally administered by a physician in a clinical environment. Less often, you might be trained how to properly self-inject Terbutaline at home.

The inhaler form of this medication is usually used every 4-6 hours, or as directed by your physician.

Follow all instructions printed on the product label carefully. Never take less or more Terbutaline than recommended.

When you begin to use Terbutaline, your doctor can start with a small dose before increasing it after 7 days or so. This enables your doctor to ensure you get a dose that treats your condition well without causing adverse side effects which may happen when you start a new treatment.

Use Terbutaline on a regular basis to really enjoy its benefits. Before your medicine runs out completely, have your prescription refilled.

Your doctor can prescribe other drugs to help treat your medical problem. Use all medicines as directed. Don't alter your medication schedule or doses without seeking your doctor's advice.

To ensure that this drug is not causing adverse effects on the lungs, you may require chest x-rays or other regular lung function tests.

Seek treatment as soon as possible if you believe that your asthma drugs aren't working as they should. An urgent need for medicines might be an early indicator of a severe asthma attack.

Terbutaline overdose can cause a number of severe side effects. Here are some of the symptoms of an overdose of the medication:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Nervousness
  • Excessive weakness/tiredness
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Pounding/fast/irregular heartbeat
  • Uncontrolled shaking or trembling of a body part
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

If an overdose occurs, make sure to contact your poison control agency or emergency room as soon as possible. You can call the poison control agency at 1-800-222-1222.

If you've missed a Terbutaline dose, take it when you remember, as long as it's not close to the time of the next dose.

If you missed a dose and the next one is just moments away, skip that dose and follow your regular dosing schedule.

Don't take an extra Terbutaline dose to even up your missed dose.


Let your healthcare professional know of all the prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, nutritional, dietary, recreational, or illegal drugs you're using, especially:

  • Beta -blockers, including Tenormin (Atenolol), Betapace (Sotalol), Inderal (Propranolol), Blocadren (Timolol), Corgard (Nadolol), Normodyne or Trandate (Labetalol), Cartrol (Carteolol), Lopressor (Metropolol), or Coreg (Carvedilol).
  • Certain diuretics, aka water pills
  • Other asthma medications
  • Medicines for appetite control, cold, diabetes, or ADHD.

In addition, let your physician know if you're using any of these medications, or if you've stopped using them in the last two weeks:

Tricyclic antidepressants, incliding Asendin (Amoxapine), Ludiomil (Maprotiline), Anafranil (Clomipramine), Silenor (Doxepin), Norpramin (Desipramine), Pamelor (Nortriptyline), Surmontil (Trimipramine), or Vivactil (Protriptyline)

Monoamine oxidasse inhibitors, including Parnate (Tranylcypromine), Nardil (Phenelzine), Marplan (Isocarboxazid), Zelapar (Selegiline), Emsam, or Eldepryl

Terbutaline can bring on drowsiness or dizziness. Therefore, do not use heavy machines, drive a vehicle, or carry out tasks that need concentration until you're used to Terbutaline and you know how it affects you.

Alcohol can worsen some Terbutaline side effects. So, make sure to consult your physician before taking alcohol while using this drug.


It's really important that your progress is checked by your doctor at regular appointments. This will enable your doctor to assess whether the medication is working well and to check if there are any undesirable effects.

For people with heart conditions, Terbutaline rarely changes their blood pressure and heart rate. If you suffer from a heart problem, consult your doctor before using this drug.

Terbutaline is a drug that belongs to category C pregnancy. This means two things:

Studies in animals have shown serious effects to the unborn baby when the mother uses Terbutaline.

There haven't been sufficient studies in human beings to know for sure how the medication could affect the fetus.

Talk to your primary healthcare giver if you're trying for a baby, or plan to get pregnant. Terbutaline should be taken only if the possible benefit outweighs the possible risks to the unborn child.

If you're breastfeeding, you need to know that Terbutaline is secreted in milk and can affect a baby who is being breastfed.

If you're breastfeeding, please talk to your physician. Your physician and you may need to decide between giving up this medication and stopping breastfeeding.

Older people tend to process medicines more slowly. A standard adult dose can raise the levels of Terbutaline in your body. Senior patients may need a different dosing schedule or a lower dose.

In children, this medication has not be researched and should not be taken by kids younger than 12.

Terbutaline use can cause a very serious allergic reaction with symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of tongue or throat
  • Trouble breathing

Do not take Terbutaline again if you previously had an allergy to it. Taking the medication again might have fatal consequences (cause death).

Hypokalemia may occur after using Terbutaline. Please consult your doctor promptly if your child or you suffer some of these symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased urine
  • Increased thirst
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle pain/cramps
  • Mood changes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tingling/numbness in the lips, hands, or feet
  • Unusual weakness/tiredness

Do not use other medications unless you have discussed this with your primary healthcare provider. This includes over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, appetite control medicines, medicines for colds, cough, sinus problems, and hay fever, as well as vitamin or herbal supplements.


Keep all medicines, including Terbutaline in a secure place away from kids

Keep Terbutaline in a dry, cool place away from strong heat and light

Don't keep unwanted or expired medications. You can hand them over to your pharmacy for safe disposal

Don't freeze Terbutaline. Don't refrigerate it as well.


Try to honor your routine appointments with your physician and hospital. This will help your doctor review your medical condition on a frequent basis.

If your breathing worsens at any time, make sure to contact your physician or pharmacist promptly for advice. If you suffer from asthma, you will get a written action plan from your doctor or other healthcare provider which will assist you to control your condition and tell you what steps to take whenever you suffer an asthma attack.

Do not smoke. Doing so can irritate and damage your lungs, making your condition even worse. Have a chat with your healthcare giver for further medical advice if you're finding it hard to quit smoking.

If you have high blood glucose levels (diabetes), you might need to monitor your blood glucose on a more frequent basis because Terbutaline can raise your blood sugar levels. Your doctor will give you advice about this.

Whenever you buy any medicine, please check with your pharmacist to find out whether they can be used together with Terbutaline.

Last Reviewed:
December 23, 2017
Last Updated:
April 05, 2018
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