Brand names: Uni-Dur, Uniphyl, Theo-24, Theo-Dur, Theochron, T-Phyl, Slo-bid, Quibron-T/SR, Theophylline
Theophylline, an oral bronchodilator medication, is given to treat symptoms of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Theophylline is a chemical cousin of caffeine. It opens the airways by relaxing the smooth muscle that circles the tubes and blood vessels in the lungs.
Theophylline is a controlled-release medication. For an acute attack you should take an immediate-release medication instead of more theophylline. If you develop status asthmaticus (a severe breathing difficulty that does not clear up with your usual medications), do not take extra theophylline; instead, seek medical treatment immediately. Since even a little extra theophylline may constitute an overdose, you should be treated in a place where close monitoring is possible.
Individual doses are determined by a person's response (a decrease in symptoms of asthma). In order to avoid overdosing or underdosing, your doctor will perform regular tests to determine the amount of theophylline in your bloodstream.
You should not change from one brand of theophylline to another brand without first consulting your doctor or pharmacist. Products manufactured by different companies may not be equally effective.
Take theophylline exactly as prescribed. Do not change the dose, the time you take it, or how often you take it without consulting your doctor.
This drug is available in two forms. The extended-release tablets should be swallowed whole, not crushed or chewed. The tablets of some brands are scored; if the doctor prescribes a partial dosage, these tablets should be broken only at the score. You may take the tablets with or without food. If you are taking them on a once-a-day basis, do not take the dose at night.
The other form, sustained-action sprinkle capsules, must be taken either 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal. You may take the capsule whole or open it and empty the contents onto a spoonful of food that is soft but not hot. Without chewing, immediately swallow the spoonful of food and follow it with a glass of cool water or juice. Always take the complete contents of the capsule.
When taking theophylline, you should avoid large amounts of caffeine-containing beverages, such as tea or coffee.
Side effects from theophylline cannot be anticipated. Nausea and restlessness may occur when you first start to take theophylline, but will probably disappear as your body becomes used to the drug. If side effects persist, see your doctor; the dosage may be too high.
Do not take theophylline if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it or similar drugs.
Do not take theophylline ur if you have an active peptic ulcer or a seizure disorder such as epilepsy.
If you are a smoker, your body will tend to process and get rid of theophylline rather quickly; thus, you may need to take more frequent doses than a nonsmoker. Tell your doctor if you start or stop smoking. Even if you quit, the quick-clearance effect may linger for 6 months to 2 years.
You should take theophylline cautiously and under close medical supervision if you are over age 60.
You should also take theophylline cautiously and under close supervision if you have had a sustained high fever, or if you have heart disease, liver disease, heartbeat irregularities, fluid in the lungs, an underactive thyroid gland, the flu or another viral illness, or the symptoms of shock.
Call your doctor immediately if you develop nausea, vomiting, a lasting headache, insomnia, restlessness, or a too-rapid heartbeat; if you develop a new illness, especially with a fever; or if an illness you already have gets worse.
Theophylline interacts with a wide variety of drugs. Consult your doctor before combining any other medication with theophylline. Let your doctor know whenever another doctor starts you on a new medication or stops an old one. Let every doctor you deal with know you are taking theophylline.
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Theophylline should not be taken during pregnancy unless it is clearly needed, and unless the benefits to the mother outweigh the potential risk to the developing child.
Theophylline r does find its way into breast milk; it may make a nursing baby irritable or harm the baby in other ways. If you are a new mother, you will probably need to choose between breastfeeding and taking theophylline.
The usual initial dose is one 150-milligram tablet every 12 hours. If this is not effective, your doctor will gradually increase the dose until you respond, up to a maximum of 600 milligrams per day. Once you have adjusted to the medication, your doctor may be able to put you on a once-a-day dose schedule.
The usual initial dose is no more than 200 milligrams every 12 hours. If this is not effective, your doctor will gradually increase the dose until you respond, up to a maximum of 900 milligrams per day. If a dose every 12 hours is inconvenient, your doctor may divide the daily total into 3 small doses taken every 8 hours.
CHILDREN 6 to 16 YEARS
The doctor will calculate the proper dosage based on the child's body weight.
Older adults are more likely than younger people to be seriously affected by theophylline. Anyone over age 60 should not take more than 400 milligrams a day except in special circumstances.
Most of the symptoms listed under "What side effects may occur?" are actually caused by slight overdosage.
Be aware that a flu shot, influenza itself, or another viral infection may make your usual dose of theophylline act like an overdose. Consult your doctor if you anticipate getting a flu shot, or if you think you have the flu; you may need a temporary dosage reduction.
A mild overdose of theophylline may cause nausea and restlessness. Taking too much over a long period of time may cause serious heartbeat irregularities, convulsions, or even death. If at any time you suspect symptoms of an overdose of theophylline, seek medical attention immediately.