Theophylline (Intravenous)

Theophylline is injected in a hospital setting to treat acute symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other diseases of the lungs.


Belonging to the group of medicines known as bronchodilators, the Theophylline injection is used in the treatment of a range of lung diseases. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the bronchial tubes in the lungs of the patient to allow for the easier passage of oxygen. In doing so the medication will relieve symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and troubled breathing.

The Theophylline is used in a hospital setting alongside other treatments. It is used to relieve the acute symptoms of the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Other lung diseases

This medication is available only with a doctor's prescription and should be administered by a doctor in a hospital only.

Conditions treated

Type of medicine

  • Bronchodilator

Side Effects

In addition to the wanted effects of opening the air passages in the lungs to allow for the better flow of oxygen, this medication can also have unwanted side effects. Not all side effects may occur in the patient, but in some cases medical attention will need to be given if they do occur.

If you experience any of the following side effects then you should contact your doctor or nurse immediately:

  • Blurring of the vision
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness or fainting
  • Changed or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Increase in the volume of urination
  • Infection at or around the site of injection
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pain or redness at the site of injection
  • Protrusion of veins around the injection site
  • Pale appearing skin around the site of injection
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Pounding heart or rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the limbs, particularly in the lower legs or arms
  • Weight gain

The following side effects may occur but would not normally necessitate seeking medical attention. These side effects will usually abate quickly as your body gets used to the medication and many of these side effects are easily alleviated. If you have any concerns about these side effects you can still talk to your doctor and if they become bothersome or are ongoing then you should contact your doctor for advice.

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Troubled sleep
  • Inability to sleep

It is also possible for patients to overdose from this medication. Overdose is very serious and you will need to seek emergency medical attention if it occurs. If you experience any of the following symptoms of overdose after use then you should seek emergency medical assistance:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort of the stomach
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Confusion about identity, location, and time
  • Darkening of the urine
  • Decrease in frequency of urination
  • Decreased volume of urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty in passing urine or dribbling urine stream
  • Dizziness or feeling of faintness when getting up from a lying or sitting position suddenly
  • Dry mouth or feeling of dehydration
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat or pulse
  • Feverishness
  • Increased thirstiness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of usual hunger
  • Mood changes without reason
  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Muscle pains or stiffness of muscles
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities. Particularly in the hands, feet, or lips
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, upper back, or neck
  • Painful passing of urine
  • Shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating when cool
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Unusual weakness
  • Vomiting of blood or of a material that appears like coffee grounds

Other side effects that are not listed herein may still occur. If you experience other side effects not listed then contact your doctor for advice.


This medication should only be given by a doctor or nurse under supervision of a doctor in a hospital environment. The medicine is given intravenously as an injection into the vein of the patient.

The dose of Theophylline given to each patient will differ depending on condition and weight. The following information is a guideline only. The doctor will determine your appropriate dosage.

Calculate dose using ideal body weight instead of actual body weight. Theophylline is absorbed poorly into fat so mg/kg weight should consider ideal weight for the patient's height.

Guideline doses:

  • In adults aged 60+
    • 0.3 mg/kg/hour.
    • Do not exceed 400 mg per day.
  • In adults and adolescents aged 16-59
    • 0.4 mg/kg/hour.
    • Do not exceed 900 mg per day.
  • In children aged 12-15
    • 0.5mg/kg/hour.
    • Do not exceed 900 mg per day.
  • In children aged 9-11
    • 0.7 mg/kg/hour.
    • Do not exceed 900 mg per day.
  • In children aged 1-8
    • 0.8 mg/kg/hour.
    • Do not exceed 400 mg per day.
  • In infants aged 6-52 weeks
    • To be calculated by the doctor.
    • Dosage calculated as (0.008 x age in weeks) + 0.21. This value will give you the dose of Theophylline mg/kg/hour.


Some medications should not be used together at all. In some cases they can interact with one another in the body and cause violent reactions with serious side effects for the patient. In other cases drug may prevent other drugs from working and some may intensify the side effects or risks posed by another. It is vital that you inform your doctor of all medications that you are taking before beginning this treatment. This is especially important with the following drugs. There may, however, be other medications not listed here that will also interact with Theophylline when given intravenously.

The use of this Theophylline with the following medications is not recommended. Your doctor may wish to change one or more of the medicines that you take.

  • Riociguat
  • Amifampridine

Theophylline use is also not recommended with the following medications. In some cases, however, your doctor may still prescribe both and make adjustments to the dose or frequency of use.

  • Zileuton
  • Vemurafenib
  • Troleandomycin
  • Thiabendazole
  • Siltuximab
  • Secukinumab
  • Rofecoxib
  • Regadenoson
  • Pixantrone
  • Phenytoin
  • Peginterferon Alfa-2b
  • Peginterferon Alfa-2a
  • Pefloxacin
  • Norgestrel
  • Norgestimate
  • Norethindrone
  • Norelgestromin
  • Mexiletine
  • Mestranol
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Levofloxacin
  • Imipenem
  • Idrocilamide
  • Idelalisib
  • Halothane
  • Golimumab
  • Fosphenytoin
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Fluconazole
  • Etonogestrel
  • Etintidine
  • Ethynodiol Diacetate
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Estradiol Valerate
  • Estradiol Cypionate
  • Erythromycin
  • Enoxacin
  • Drospirenone
  • Donepezil
  • Dihydroartemisinin
  • Dienogest
  • Desogestrel
  • Deferasirox
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Cimetidine
  • Ceritinib
  • Bupropion
  • Blinatumomab
  • Adenosine

Using the following medications alongside Theophylline can increase the risk of experiencing certain side effects. The use of both treatments may still be the best treatment for you, however. If you are using both medications your doctor may change your dose or frequency of use.

  • Zafirlukast
  • Viloxazine
  • Triazolam
  • Ticlopidine
  • Temazepam
  • Telithromycin
  • Tacrine
  • St John's Wort
  • Secobarbital
  • Ritonavir
  • Riluzole
  • Rifapentine
  • Rifampin
  • Quazepam
  • Propafenone
  • Prazepam
  • Piperine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Pentoxifylline
  • Pancuronium
  • Oxazepam
  • Nitrazepam
  • Nilutamide
  • Midazolam
  • Methotrexate
  • Medazepam
  • Lormetazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Ketazolam
  • Isoproterenol
  • Ipriflavone
  • Interferon Alfa-2a
  • Halazepam
  • Flurazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Febuxostat
  • Estazolam
  • Disulfiram
  • Diazepam
  • Clorazepate
  • Clonazepam
  • Clobazam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Carbamazepine
  • Cannabis
  • Brotizolam
  • Azithromycin
  • Amiodarone
  • Aminoglutethimide
  • Alprazolam
  • Adinazolam

Interactions with Theophylline can also occur with non-medical consumables. The food, drink, alcohol and tobacco you consume can interact with the medication in your body.

The use of Theophylline with tobacco is not usually recommended. If you are a smoker then this treatment may be administered in a different way or not at all. Discuss your use of tobacco with your doctor before receiving this treatment.

The use of Theophylline with caffeine is also not recommended. You should discuss your coffee drinking habits with your doctor and you should avoid taking any drinks, tablets or foods that contain caffeine whilst undergoing treatment. Discuss this with your doctor.

Other medical conditions can also react with Theophylline and can make use unsafe. In some cases medications can make other medical conditions worse. It is very important that you tell your doctor of all medical conditions from which you suffer before treatment. You should be especially clear to do this if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

The following conditions can cause the medication to leave the body less quickly resulting in a higher exposure. Use with caution.

The following conditions may be made worse by use. Use with caution.

  • Arrhythmia
  • History of seizures
  • Stomach ulceration


In deciding to proceed with the use of this medication it is important to consider all of the factors that may affect the use and the side effects that may be caused. You should consider these factors with your doctor and a decision should be made by you both to determine whether you should proceed with treatment. Ensure that you consider all of the following factors:

Allergies - You should inform your doctor if you have ever reacted unusually to any medication that you have received in the past. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any known allergies to dyes, preservatives, animals, foods or other substances too.

Pediatric - Children under the age of 1 are more likely to suffer from serious side effects. Caution should be taken and extra monitoring may be required.

Geriatric - Elderly patients can be more sensitive to the side effects of Theophylline use than younger patients. An adjustment in dose is required initially to reduce the amount received.

Pregnancy - Risk in pregnant females has not been tested but animal studies have shown absorption and development problems in fetus. If you are pregnant then inform your doctor before treatment commences.

Breastfeeding - Minimal risk from breastfeeding whilst taking Theophylline has been observed.

Observation of the patient is required after using this treatment. The medicine will be administered in a hospital environment and the patient must be monitored.

Changes in your behavior of physical well-being can impact the effectiveness of this medication. If you have experienced any changes then you should inform your doctor before the treatment is given. Inform your doctor if:

  • You have had a fever for 24 hours
  • You have either stopped or started smoking either tobacco or marijuana in recent weeks.
  • You have either stopped or started treatment with any other medication in recent weeks.
  • You have changed your diet in recent weeks.

After receiving this medication you should look out for signs of overdose as listed in the side effects. Seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing these side effects.

Ensure that any doctor carrying out tests on you knows that you have received treatment with Theophylline. This treatment can affect the results of tests and misrepresent your health or condition.

This medication will increase the effect of caffeine on the central nervous system. You should avoid the intake of caffeine when using this treatment and should discuss this with your doctor. Avoid excessive consumption of chocolate, coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks and cocoa. Caffeine is present in more foods and drinks than you may expect, so be sure to read the labels of foods and drinks before consumption.

Do not take any other medication in conjunction with the Theophylline injection without first discussing this use with your doctor.


Store at controlled room temperature between 20-25 °C.


The Theophylline injection is used in the treatment of a range of lung diseases and is effective for use on patients aged from 6 weeks onwards.

Conditions treated by the medication include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases. Theophylline works to relieve the symptoms of acute cases of these diseases.

Theophylline is a bronchodilator and works by relaxing the bronchial tubes. Doing so allows for the easier passage of air into the lungs and the better absorption of oxygen into the blood stream.

This treatment is given in a hospital environment only under the supervision of a doctor. The patient should be monitored following the injection and side effects from use may occur.

It is possible to overdose from use of this medication and signs over overdose should be observed carefully. In cases of overdose emergency medical treatment will need to be given.

A wide range of medications and substances interact with Theophylline in the body. This includes both tobacco and caffeine. You should discuss your medication, medical conditions and use of both caffeine and tobacco with your doctor before using this medication.

Last Reviewed:
December 25, 2017
Last Updated:
February 11, 2018
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