Ipratropium - a bronchodilator (Atrovent; Respontin)

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Ipratropium relieves breathlessness and wheezing.

Make sure you know how to use the inhaler or nebuliser properly. If you are not sure, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you.

Use ipratropium regularly. Your doctor will tell you how many times you should use it each day - it will be either three or four times daily.

Type of medicineAn antimuscarinic bronchodilator
Used forChronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma
Also calledAtrovent®; Respontin®
Available asAerosol inhaler and nebules

Ipratropium belongs to the group of medicines known as antimuscarinic bronchodilators. It is given to improve the airflow to your lungs. It works by opening up the air passages in your lungs so that air can flow into your lungs more freely.

Ipratropium can be helpful in relieving symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic asthma. In these conditions, the airflow to the lungs is restricted and this causes symptoms such as cough, wheeze, and breathlessness. You will have been prescribed ipratropium to help reduce these symptoms, but it is not a rescue treatment for sudden breathlessness.

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

  • If you have problems with your kidneys or prostate, or if you have any difficulty passing urine.
  • If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye).
  • If you have cystic fibrosis.
  • 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, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding. It is particularly important that your breathing is well controlled if you are expecting a baby.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about ipratropium, diagrams to remind you how to use the inhaler or nebuliser, and a full list of side-effects which you may experience.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and make sure you know how to use your inhaler or nebuliser properly. If you are unsure about this, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you what to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you how many times each day you should use ipratropium - it will be either three or four times daily. You will also be told how many puffs to take each time you use the inhaler - this is usually one or two puffs, but it may be as many as four for short periods.
  • Try to use the inhaler at the same times each day, as this will help you to remember to use it regularly. If you do forget at your usual time, use it as soon as you remember.
  • Do not use ipratropium more frequently than you have been prescribed by your doctor, and do not 'double up' to make up for any missed doses.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis.
  • If you find that your symptoms are getting worse or that you need to use a reliever inhaler more regularly, contact your doctor or nurse for advice straightaway.
  • Your doctor may give you a spacer device to use with an ipratropium inhaler, 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 are currently using any other inhalers or nebulisers to help your breathing, please discuss with your doctor if there are any of these that you should no longer use. This is because you should not use other antimuscarinic bronchodilators as well as ipratropium. Other antimuscarinic bronchodilators include glycopyrronium (Seebri Breezhaler®), tiotropium (Spiriva®), and aclidinium (Eklira®).
  • Breathing problems are aggravated by smoking, so it is important that you do not smoke. Smoking causes irritation and damage to the lungs and will make your condition worse. Speak with your doctor or practice nurse for further advice if you are having difficulty stopping smoking.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with ipratropium. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common ipratropium side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)
What can I do if I experience this?
Dry mouthTry chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free sweets
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Feeling dizzyDo not drive or use tools or machines until you feel better
Feeling sick, constipation or diarrhoeaEat simple healthy foods and drink plenty of water
Blurred vision (if you are using nebules)Take care to protect your eyes
Throat irritation, coughIf either of these becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to ipratropium, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

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

Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have had 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 buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or any 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

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Atrovent Inhaler®; Boehringer Ingelheim Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated November 2010.
  • British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

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 make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3598 (v23)
Last Checked:
25/03/2014
Next Review:
24/03/2017
The Information Standard - certified member

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