Sounds like 'ip-ra-TRO-pee-um'

Key points about ipratropium

  • Ipratropium is used to treat breathing problems such as COPD.
  • Ipratropium is commonly called Atrovent (inhaler) or Univent (ampoules for a nebuliser).
  • Find out how to use it safely and possible side effects.
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Ipratropium is used to treat cough, wheeze and difficulty breathing caused by respiratory problems such as COPD. Ipratropium used each day will help to reduce these symptoms. It works by opening air passages in your lungs, making breathing easier.

It works as a bronchodilator (opens the airways) and it also works as reliever (to relieve breathing problems)

Using an inhaler device enables the medicine to go straight into your airways when you breathe in. This means that your airways and lungs are treated, but very little of the medicine gets into the rest of your body. 

In New Zealand ipratropium is available as an inhaler and nebulising solution. Nebulisers are used when inhalers are not suitable. The information on this page is about ipratropium inhalers. Read more about nebulisers.

  • The usual dose of ipratropium inhaler is 2 puffs 4 times a day. 
  • If you have severe breathing problems you may use up to 4 puffs at a time. You should not use more than 12 puffs in any 24 hour period.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it and any special instructions.

To get the most benefit, it is important to use the correct technique. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse to explain how to use your inhaler. Even if you have been shown before, ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse to explain again how to use your inhaler if you still have any questions. Here is some guidance.

 How to use your MDI (puffer)
Take off the cap and hold the inhaler upright.
Shake the inhaler to mix the medication.
  Sit upright, tilt your head back slightly (as if you are sniffing) and breathe out gently.
Hold the device upright, insert the inhaler into your mouth, ensuring that your lips firmly seal the mouthpiece.
At the beginning of a slow, deep breath, breathe in through the mouthpiece as you press the inhaler to release one dose or 'puff'.
Breathe in fully, remove the inhaler from your mouth and hold your breath for 10 seconds or as long as is comfortable.
Breathe out gently through your nose.

Learn more about metered dose inhalers

Using a spacer with your inhaler

A spacer is an attachment to use with your MDI. Using a spacer with your MDI makes it easier to use the inhaler and helps to get the medicine into your lungs, where it’s needed (with less medicine ending up in your mouth and throat). Spacers improve how well your medicine works. Read more about spacers.

  • Do you have problems with your prostate, or have you had difficulty passing urine?
  • Do you have glaucoma?
  • Do you have heart problems such as an unusual heart rhythm?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start using ipratropium. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

Like all medicines ipratropium can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • A change in voice (hoarse voice)
  • A different taste in your mouth
  • Difficulty urinating (peeing)
  • These may go away with time. If you have problems with a dry mouth, or different taste in your mouth, rinse your mouth after each dose.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Talk to your doctor.
  • Do not drive or use machinery.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Constipation (difficulty passing poos) or diarrhoea (runny poos)
  • Talk to your doctor.
  • Changes in your heartbeat (fast or irregular)
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.
  • Difficulty breathing or worsening of your breathing problem
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product(external link)

Ipratropium (for inhalation)(external link) New Zealand Formulary
Atrovent(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets


Ipratropium in Te Reo Māori(external link)(external link) My Medicines, NZ, 2017
Regional Blue card COPD Action plan [PDF, 355 KB] District Health Boards, NZ, 2019
5 questions to ask about your medications(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)


  1. Ipratropium bromide(external link) New Zealand Formulary

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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