Spiriva and Dry Mouth

by on July 18, 2012

Spiriva HandiHaler (tiotopium bromide) is a prescription medicine used in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is classified as a bronchodilator with anticholinergic effects. Dry mouth is one of the most commonly reported side effects of Spiriva and other anticholinergic drugs.

How Spiriva May Cause Dry Mouth

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is produced by the body. It plays significant roles in regulating the heart rate, saliva production and muscular activity. On the other hand, medications with anticholinergic effects, including Spiriva, work by blocking the effects of acetylcholine. This causes changes in body fluids particularly a decrease in saliva production. As a result, people taking these medications can experience dry mouth within a few days after starting the medication. Dry mouth can also occur right after each dose.

Although dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of Spiriva, it is not considered serious and is often easy to manage. Clinical studies show that up to 16 percent of individuals taking this medication experienced dry mouth, compared with only 3 percent in people who do not use Spiriva.

Managing Dry Mouth

If you experience dry mouth while taking Spiriva, you can do some things to relieve this bothersome side effect. You can try the following suggestions:

  • Rinse your mouth with water after using the HandiHaler.
  • Suck on sugarless hard candy or chew sugarless gum to stimulate production of saliva.
  • Sip or drink water/sugarless drinks more often.
  • When eating, sip water or unsweetened drinks more often to help make chewing and swallowing easier.
  • Caffeine can also cause dry mouth. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and other drinks.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol, as these substances can also dry out the mouth.
  • Avoid salty and spicy foods. They do not only cause dryness of the mouth, they can also cause pain if you have dry mouth.
  • If possible, use a humidifier at night.

Usually, these suggestions can effectively manage dry mouth. However, if these recommendations do not relieve this side effect or if the side effect persists, you should consult your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may recommend other treatment options such as use of artificial saliva. Some people are just too sensitive to the effects of this medication thus may require dose adjustments. It is also possible for your healthcare provider to switch Spiriva with other alternative bronchodilators.