Background: Beta-agonist agents have been used for bronchospasm and cough in a variety of settings. We sought to evaluate the efficacy of oral albuterol for acute cough in ambulatory adults.
Methods: We performed a prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind clinical trial comparing albuterol 4 mg by mouth three times daily for 7 days with placebo in 104 adults. Subjects had cough of less than 4 weeks' duration and no evidence of pneumonia, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All subjects were enrolled at the walk-in clinic of a rural academic medical center.
Results: There was no significant difference between treated and control subjects in any measure of efficacy including cough severity score, reduction in sleepless nights, utilization of health care, or return to full activity. There were significantly more reports of "shakiness" and "nervousness" among albuterol-treated subjects than among controls.
Conclusions: Oral albuterol should not be used in unselected patients with acute, nonspecific cough.