What Is Montelukast?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Montelukast is a medication prescribed to treat symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, and problems breathing, as well as tightness in the chest. This medicine, called a leukotriene receptor antagonist (LTRA) works by relieving inflammation in the airways and interfering with leukotrienes that can cause asthma. A doctor will typically prescribe montelukast for use before and during physical activity to help lessen the need for a fast-acting asthma medication.

Montelukast granules can be sprinkled on applesauce so they can be swallowed easily.
Montelukast granules can be sprinkled on applesauce so they can be swallowed easily.

Patients can take montelukast in the form of granules, chewable tablets, and regular tablets. The granules should either be swallowed all at once or mixed into ice cream or applesauce and swallowed within 15 minutes. They are not intended to be mixed with any other food or drink.

Montelukast can be prescribed to treat symptoms of asthma.
Montelukast can be prescribed to treat symptoms of asthma.

The chewable and regular tablets may be taken with or without food. Patients may be instructed to take a dose each evening. Those using it to prevent an asthma attack during exercise should take it two hours prior to physical activity. These two dosing methods should not be combined; that is, those taking a regular evening dose may not take an additional dose before exercising.

Some side effects may occur with the use of montelukast for asthma symptoms, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. Patients may experience stomach pain or heartburn. Others have reported dizziness or fatigue, along with headaches.

More serious side effects from this asthma medication require immediate medical care. These may rarely include painful and swollen sinuses, swelling of the face, throat, or extremities, or flu-like symptoms, which may include chills and a fever. Other serious side effects may include problems breathing or swallowing, hoarseness, or numbness and prickling sensations in the legs or arms. Some patients have reported hallucinations, anxiety, or trouble sleeping, along with abnormal dreams. Rarely, sleepwalking, suicidal thoughts, or muscle weakness have occurred.

Before taking montelukast for preventing asthma symptoms, patients must disclose their other medical conditions. Women who are pregnant should exercise caution when considering this drug. As of 2011, it is unknown whether it may pass into breast milk and harm a nursing infant. This medication is contraindicated for use by those with liver disease or phenylketonuria, because it may contain aspartame.

Montelukast may interact with other medications and supplements. These can include rifampin and phenobarbital. Patients should disclose all other drugs they are taking, including aspirin, which may potentially worsen asthma symptoms.

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