The effect of oral salbutamol on
the metabolism of electrolytes in
Dr A N Nagdeote
Associate Professor in Biochemistry
ESI Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences and Research,
Andheri east, Mumbai. 400093
Background: Experimental evidence suggests that sodium and potassium may affect the responsiveness of airways. In asthma, the electrolyte metabolism is also affected during the course of anti-asthmatic therapy by using β2-agonist drugs like salbutamol. Objective: To determine whether the therapy for the treatment of asthma affects the sodium and potassium metabolism. Method: 50 children between 2 to 12 years of age with asthmatic attack were selected for the study. 18 children had a severe attack of asthma. Blood samples were collected from them and the therapy for the treatment of asthma was started, which included β2-agonists like salbutamol. Children with severe asthmatic attack were treated with nebulized salbutamol along with corticosteroids. After 15 days, the asthmatic children were again called for a follow up study and their blood samples were collected. The serum levels of sodium and potassium were measured on an Ion Selective Electrode (ISE) based electrolyte analyzer. Results: The results showed a significant decrease in the serum potassium levels in children receiving the β2-agonists. The decrease in the potassium levels was irrespective of the severity of the asthmatic attack in both the sexes. There was no significant change in the serum sodium levels. Conclusion: The use of β2-agonists may lead to hypokalaemia. The inappropriate and continuous use of such drugs may also cause hypokalaemic paralysis of the respiratory muscles. The monitoring of the electrolytes may be warranted in asthmatic children to decrease the mortality.