Common brand names:
This medication is used to treat and prevent wheezing and trouble breathing caused by ongoing lung disease (e.g., asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis). Theophylline belongs to a class of drugs known as xanthines. It works in the airways by relaxing muscles, opening air passages to improve breathing, and decreasing the lungs' response to irritants. Controlling symptoms of breathing problems can decrease time lost from work or school.
This medication does not work right away and should not be used for sudden attacks of breathing trouble. Your doctor should prescribe a quick-relief medicine/inhaler (e.g., albuterol) for sudden attacks of shortness of breath/asthma while you are on this medication. You should always have a quick-relief inhaler with you. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
How to Use This Medication
Take this medication by mouth with or without food, usually once or twice daily or as directed by your doctor. If this medication upsets your stomach, you may take it with food. This medicine works best when the amount in your body is kept at a constant level. Therefore, use this drug at evenly spaced intervals. Since different manufacturers have different recommendations, check with your doctor or pharmacist about the best time(s) to take your particular brand of theophylline.
Do not crush or chew this medication. Doing so can release all of the drug at once, increasing the risk of side effects. Also, do not split the tablets unless they have a score line and your doctor or pharmacist tells you to do so. Swallow the whole or split tablet without crushing or chewing.
If you are taking the capsules, swallow them whole. If you are unable to swallow them, you may open the capsule and sprinkle the contents onto a spoonful of cool, soft food such as applesauce or pudding. Eat the entire mixture right away without chewing. Then drink a full glass of liquid (8 ounces or 240 milliliters). Do not prepare a supply for future use.
Dosage is based on your medical condition, response to treatment, age, weight, drug blood levels, and other drugs you may be taking. (See also Drug Interactions section.) Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same times each day.
Inform your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.
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