Ipratropium is used to control and prevent symptoms (wheezing and shortness of breath) caused by ongoing lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD which includes bronchitis and emphysema). It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways so that they open up and you can breathe more easily. Controlling symptoms of breathing problems can decrease time lost from work or school. For preventing symptoms of lung disease, this medication must be used regularly to be effective. Use your quick-relief inhaler (such as albuterol, also called salbutamol in some countries) for wheezing or sudden shortness of breath unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Ipratropium does not work as fast as your quick-relief inhaler, but may sometimes be used to relieve symptoms of wheezing or sudden shortness of breath if so prescribed by your doctor.