HomeDrug ClassesShort-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists

Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists: Uses, Common Brands, and Safety Info

Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists are medications used to treat respiratory disorders like COPD and asthma. They work by relaxing the muscles in the airways, improving airflow. Common brands include Atrovent, Combivent, and Spiriva. Although generally safe, they may cause side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision. Seek medical attention immediately if an allergic reaction occurs. Always consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists

Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists belong to a class of medications used primarily for the treatment of respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. These medications work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the constriction of smooth muscles around the airways.


Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists are primarily used as bronchodilators, which means they help to relax the muscles in the airways and widen them. This leads to improved airflow and easier breathing for individuals with respiratory conditions like COPD and asthma, which are characterized by narrowed airways. These medications are typically employed as rescue inhalers to quickly relieve symptoms during episodes of shortness of breath or wheezing.

Common Brands

Some commonly prescribed short-acting muscarinic antagonists include:

  • Atrovent (ipratropium bromide): Available as a metered-dose inhaler and nebulizer solution, Atrovent is frequently prescribed for managing bronchospasms associated with COPD and asthma.

  • Combivent (ipratropium bromide/albuterol sulfate): Combivent is a combination medication that contains both a short-acting muscarinic antagonist (ipratropium bromide) and a short-acting beta-agonist (albuterol sulfate). It is commonly used for acute treatment of bronchospasms related to COPD.

  • Spiriva (tiotropium bromide): Spiriva is a long-acting muscarinic antagonist, but it is worth mentioning as it is widely used for the maintenance treatment of COPD. It is not typically considered a short-acting medication.


Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists are generally safe and well-tolerated when used as directed. However, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as narrow-angle glaucoma or problems urinating, should exercise caution or avoid these medications. Common side effects include dry mouth, cough, headache, and blurred vision. If these symptoms persist or worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction to short-acting muscarinic antagonists may occur. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include difficulty breathing, hives, swelling of the face or throat, or a rash. If an allergic reaction is suspected, immediate medical attention should be sought.

It is important to note that the information provided here is a general overview, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance regarding specific medications.

List of Short-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists