Theophylline : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions & More
Theophylline is used to prevent and treat wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. It relaxes and opens air passages in the lungs, making it easier to breathe.
How should this medicine be used?
Theophylline comes as an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, extended-release capsule, and a solution (liquid) to take by mouth. It usually is taken every 6, 8, 12, or 24 hours. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take theophylline exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Take this medication with a full glass of water on an empty stomach, at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal. Extended-release capsules (e.g., Theo-Dur Sprinkles) may be swallowed whole or opened and the contents mixed with soft food and swallowed without chewing.
Swallow the extended-release tablets whole; do not chew or crush them.
Theophylline controls symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases but does not cure them. Continue to take theophylline even if you feel well. Do not stop taking theophylline without talking to your doctor.
Other uses for this medicine
Theophylline is sometimes used to treat breathing problems in premature infants. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of using this drug for your baby’s condition.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking theophylline,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to theophylline, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in theophylline preparations. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription medications you are taking, especially allopurinol (Zyloprim), azithromycin (Zithromax), carbamazepine (Tegretol), cimetidine (Tagamet), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), clarithromycin (Biaxin), diuretics (‘water pills’), erythromycin, lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid), oral contraceptives, phenytoin (Dilantin), prednisone (Deltasone), propranolol (Inderal), rifampin (Rifadin), tetracycline (Sumycin), and other medications for infections or heart disease.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription, nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: ephedrine, epinephrine, phenylephrine, phenylpropanolamine, or pseudoephedrine. Many other medications may also interact with theophylline, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had seizures, ulcers, heart disease, an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, high blood pressure, or liver disease or if you have a history of alcohol abuse.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking theophylline, call your doctor.
- tell your doctor if you use tobacco products. Cigarette smoking may decrease the effectiveness of theophylline.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Drinking or eating foods high in caffeine, like coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate, may increase the side effects caused by theophylline. Avoid large amounts of these substances while you are taking theophylline.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you become severely short of breath, call your doctor.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Theophylline may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away.
- upset stomach
- stomach pain
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- increased or rapid heart rate
- irregular heartbeat
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your response to theophylline.
Do not change from one brand of theophylline to another without talking to your doctor.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Disclaimer: DrLinex has made every effort to ensure that all information is factually accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a licensed health care professional’s choice of knowledge and expertise. You should always consult your doctor or other health care professional before taking any medication. The information given here is subject to change and it has not been used to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions or adverse effects. The lack of warning or other information for any drug does not indicate that the combination of medicine or medication is safe, effective or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.