Salmeterol inhaler (Serevent, Neovent, Vertine)

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Use the inhaler regularly, twice a day. Its effects are usually felt within 20 minutes and last for around 12 hours.

Make sure you know how to use the inhaler properly.

If your breathing becomes worse or if you do not get the usual relief from the inhaler, contact your doctor for advice straightaway.
Type of medicineA long-acting beta2 agonist bronchodilator
Used forAsthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and other airways-related problems
Also calledSerevent®; Neovent®; Vertine®
There are combination brand inhalers containing salmeterol which are called Seretide®, Sirdupla® and AirFluSal® Forspiro - these brands also contain a medicine called fluticasone
Available asInhaler, Accuhaler®, and Evohaler®

Salmeterol is called a bronchodilator because it widens (dilates) your airways. It works by opening up the air passages in your lungs so that air can flow into your lungs more freely. This helps to ease symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and feeling breathless. It is prescribed to relieve airways-related problems in people who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Salmeterol is called a long-acting bronchodilator. Its effects are usually felt within 20 minutes and last for around 12 hours.

If you have asthma, as well as a salmeterol inhaler, you will also be prescribed a preventer inhaler containing a steroid medicine. Alternatively, there are several brands of salmeterol inhaler which already contain a steroid called fluticasone. You may be prescribed one of these combination brands to help reduce the number of inhalers you need to use each day.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using salmeterol it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have an overactive thyroid gland.
  • If you have heart or blood vessel problems, or an irregular heartbeat.
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have high sugar (glucose) levels in your blood (diabetes).
  • If you have been told by a doctor that there are low levels of potassium in your blood.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding. This is because it is particularly important that your breathing is well controlled if you are pregnant.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines or inhalers. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about salmeterol, diagrams to remind you how to use and clean your inhaler device, and a full list of side-effects which you could experience.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and make sure you know how to use the inhaler properly. There are several types of inhaler device. Some of these devices create a spray or 'puff' of powder which you breathe in through your mouth; others are activated when you breathe in through the mouthpiece. If you are not sure how to use the device you have been given, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you.
  • Use your inhaler regularly, twice each day. Your doctor will tell you how many inhalations to use each time. The directions will also be printed on the label of your inhaler to remind you about what the doctor said to you. Do not use the inhaler more times than the doctor has said.
  • Try to use your inhaler at the same times each day, as this will help you to remember to use it regularly. If you do forget a dose, use the inhaler as soon as you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Your doctor may give you a spacer device to use with some salmeterol inhalers, particularly if you struggle to co-ordinate breathing in and pressing the inhaler device. This helps to make sure that the medicine travels right into your lungs. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on using the device.
  • If you have asthma, you should receive a written asthma action plan from your nurse or doctor, which will help you to manage your asthma and tell you what to do if you have an asthma attack. Salmeterol will not work quickly enough to relieve an asthma attack that has already started, so your doctor will prescribe another inhaler (a shorter-acting bronchodilator, such as salbutamol) for you to use if you have an attack - make sure that you keep it with you all the time.
  • If you usually use a steroid (preventer) inhaler and have just been prescribed salmeterol, you should continue to use your steroid inhaler as well as salmeterol. You should continue to use both inhalers, even if your symptoms improve. Your doctor will tell you if and when it is appropriate for you to step down your treatment.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis. Your doctor or nurse may also want to check your technique from time to time to make sure you are using your inhaler correctly.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking causes irritation and damage to your lungs and will make your condition worse. Speak with your doctor or practice nurse for further advice if you are having difficulty in stopping smoking.
  • If you find that your symptoms are becoming worse or that you need to use a reliever (rescue) inhaler more regularly, continue to use your inhalers but also contact your doctor or nurse for advice. Also, if your usual dose of salmeterol does not provide relief from your symptoms, speak with your doctor about this as soon as you can.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood sugar (glucose) more frequently, as salmeterol can affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will advise you about this.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the more common ones associated with salmeterol. The best place to find a full list of the side-effects which can be associated with your medicine, is from the manufacturer's printed information leaflet supplied with the medicine. Alternatively, you can find examples of some manufacturers' information leaflets in the reference section below. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common salmeterol inhaler side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)
What can I do if I experience this?
Muscle cramps, feeling shaky, being aware of your heartbeatIf troublesome, discuss it with your doctor or clinic
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the inhaler, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
3396 (v24)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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