What Is A Yellow Inhaler? What It’s For, How It Works, A Guide

Posted February 26, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Inhalers are medications commonly prescribed for the treatment of asthma and related diseases. However, the continuous changes in inhaler colors are confusing patients. For example, which inhaler is used for what condition, can they be switched, and so on.

This article will give a clear overview of yellow inhalers, what they are, and what they’re used for – with side effects, frequency of use, and comparison with other inhaler colors. 

But first, here’s a quick summary of what is a yellow inhaler, then we’ll get into some more details to see if it applies to your situation.

What Is A Yellow Inhaler

What is the Yellow Inhaler? A yellow inhaler falls into the category of reliever or rescue inhaler. It comes in the common brand name Proventil HFA. It’s used for obtaining quick relief from wheezing, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even wheezing caused after exercise.

We know that the inhaler is yellow, but what’s it called? And what does it contain? Let’s tackle that next.

What Is The Yellow Inhaler Called?

The yellow inhaler often comes with the brand name called Proventil HFA, for which the generic version is albuterol sulfate.

The active ingredient in this inhaler is salbutamol, also known as albuterol. Albuterol falls into the class of drugs known as bronchodilators. 

This inhaler is used to prevent and treat asthma and asthma-related medical conditions immediately. This includes wheezing, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This yellow inhaler is also used to prevent asthma-related conditions or breathing difficulties caused after exercise. The medication is used as a quick relief, and it falls to the category of “rescue” or “relief” inhalers. 

How Yellow Inhalers Work

What happens in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and related diseases are that a person experiences bronchoconstriction. A patient with this condition may find it difficult to breathe because the airways, or bronchus, are narrowed due to inflammation.

Over time, as this develops, mucus can build up and can get thicker, making it even more difficult to breathe. This bronchoconstriction is what causes wheezing and shortness of breath.

When the yellow inhaler is used, it works instantly to quickly to open up the airways that are affected by the bronchoconstriction. So, when the airways open up and broaden, it makes it easier to breathe quickly.

Since this process works instantly to provide quick relief, a yellow inhaler is called a “fast-acting rescue medication.” 

How Are Doses Delivered From A Yellow Inhaler?

The yellow inhaler, Proventil HFA, comes as a pressurized aluminum canister with an attached dose indicator. It comes with a yellow plastic actuator and an orange dust cap attached.

Each actuation of a yellow inhaler delivers a 120 mcg of albuterol sulfate from the valve and 108 mcg of albuterol sulfate from the mouthpiece. Canisters with a net weight of 6.7 g can give up to 200 inhalations. 


Since a yellow inhaler is a rescue inhaler that gives instant relief, the dosage for this medication is two inhalations in case of sudden asthma attacks or similar symptoms. This then has to be followed by two inhalations repeated every 4 to six hours. This dosage is recommended for adults and children of four years of age and older.

What Is A Yellow Inhaler

For some patients, one inhalation every four hours may be enough. However, the exact dose will differ depending on a patient’s health condition. Your healthcare provider will let you know the precise dosage to use and for which conditions. 

Each actuation of the yellow inhaler delivers 108 mcg of albuterol sulfate, which is equal to 90 mcg of albuterol base. If one is using the inhaler for the first time, or if the inhaler is not used for two weeks or so, it’s recommended to prime the inhaler. Priming the inhaler can be done by releasing four test sprays into the air. 

Regardless of the dosage recommended by the healthcare professional, a large number of inhalations using a yellow inhaler is not recommended.

Since Proventil HFA is a rescue medication, using it often means the causes of asthma attacks and other severe asthma symptoms are frequently occurring. This is a condition that will likely require further medical attention, and you should seek the advice of your doctor.

Effectiveness Of The Yellow Inhaler

The yellow inhaler uses an active ingredient that belongs to the class of drugs called a bronchodilator.

A bronchodilator comes in two types, long-acting and short-acting. The yellow inhaler is a short-acting bronchodilator. Meaning, the effects of this medication will work for a shorter period.

On average the yellow inhaler will continue to
work for 4 to 6 hours after inhaling

After inhaling, patients need to remain calm because this medication will take up to 15 to 20 minutes to start working.

You can also ask your healthcare professional to teach you how to correctly use the yellow inhaler during an asthma attack or any other immediate situations. This can, in many circumstances, reduce the need for emergency care.

If a patient finds the need to use a yellow inhaler more than twice a week, it’s a sign that asthma conditions are not being adequately managed.

So, in this case, a doctor may offer options for long-term asthma management. Such plans usually involve a long-acting bronchodilator, which is taken twice a day, along with a steroid inhaler.

If you’re using two inhalers, it’s essential to give at least 1-2 minutes before using the other inhaler. 

Long-term asthma management plans reduce the conditions of an asthma attack to a large extent. In the long run, a person may also experience fewer asthma symptoms when following a long-term asthma management plan. 

Side Effects Of The Yellow Inhaler

Few common side effects of Proventil HFA include the following:

  • Anxiety or nervousness 
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Dizziness 
  • Drowsiness
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Dysphonia
  • Eructation (belching)
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea
  • Changes in taste
  • Muscle spasm or cramps
  • Palpitation 
  • Rash
  • Sore throat or thrush in the mouth 

These side effects can be reduced to a great extent by using a spacer or even rinsing the mouth well just after the use.

If you experience any serious side effects, notify your doctor immediately, and seek medical attention if necessary.

Difference Between Yellow Inhalers And Other Inhalers

When comparing yellow inhalers with other colors of inhalers, the famous blue inhaler is an inhaler similar to the yellow inhaler.

This is because a blue inhaler is also a rescue or reliever inhaler that is used for instant or quick relief from asthma attacks and related severe conditions. The blue inhaler is, however, used only when needed.

A green inhaler is also more like a yellow inhaler that falls into the category of reliever or rescue inhalers. However, unlike the short-acting yellow inhaler that works for 4-6 hours, the green inhaler works for 12 hours by keeping the airway open, making it easy to breathe.

Unlike the yellow inhaler that provides quick relief, the green inhaler is more focused on controlling the symptoms of asthma.

The brown inhaler is a long-term medication that falls into the category of preventative inhalers.

The brown inhaler aims to prevent the symptoms of asthma and related breathing difficulties in the long-run. Unlike a yellow or blue inhaler that’s taken only a few times when needed, a brown inhaler should always be taken even if one feels fine.

To Finish

We hope this has provided you with some insight into what a Yellow Inhaler is, what it’s used for, and how it works!

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