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FAQs on Inhaled Steroids for Asthma

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What are some common inhaled steroids?
How are inhaled steroids typically prescribed?
How is the dosage of steroids determined?
What about side effects and inhaled steroids?
What are some recommendations to minimize or prevent steroid side effects?
Want to learn more about steroids?


What are some common inhaled steroids used for asthma?

Common inhaled steroids include:

  • Asmanex® (mometasone)
  • Alvesco® (ciclesonide) 
  • Flovent® (fluticasone) 
  • Pulmicort® (budesonide)
  • Qvar® (beclomethasone HFA)


How are inhaled steroids typically prescribed for asthma?

An inhaled steroid is typically prescribed as a long-term control medicine. This means that it is used every day to maintain control of your lung disease and prevent symptoms. An inhaled steroid prevents and reduces swelling inside the airways, making them less sensitive. It may also decrease mucus production. An inhaled steroid will not provide quick relief for asthma symptoms. In addition, inhaled steroids may help reduce symptoms associated with other chronic lung conditions. Inhaled steroids are the most effective long-term control medicine currently available for asthma.  They improve asthma symptoms and lung function.  They also have been shown to decrease the need for oral steroids and hospitalization.


How is the dosage of inhaled steroids determined for asthma patients?

Your health care provider may adjust the dosage of your inhaled steroid based on your symptoms, how often you use your quick relief medicine to control symptoms and your peak flow results. You still may need a short burst of oral steroids when you have more severe symptoms.

Learn about important considerations when your dosage changes.


What are the side effects of inhaled steroid when used for asthma?

The most common side effects with inhaled steroids are thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth or throat that causes a white discoloration of the tongue), cough or hoarseness. Rinsing your mouth (and spitting out the water) after inhaling the medicine and using a spacer with an inhaled metered-dose-inhaler reduces the risk of thrush. When a dose is prescribed that is normal or higher than the normal dose in the package insert, some systemic side effects may occur. Keep in mind, however, that an inhaled steroid has much less potential for side effects than steroid pills or syrups. There have been concerns regarding the possibility of growth suppression in children.  Recent studies have not shown growth suppression over several years of treatment.

Learn about oral steroids (steroid pills and syrups), and more about steroid side effects.


What are some recommendations to minimize or prevent steroid side effects in asthma patients?

  • Take your long-term control medicines as prescribed to keep your chronic lung disease under good control. This will help decrease the steroid pills to the lowest possible dose.

  • Monitor your lung disease. If you notice your peak flow numbers are decreasing, or you are having increased symptoms, call your health care provider. A short burst of steroid pills given early may prevent the need for a longer burst if treated later.


Want to learn more about steroids and asthma?

Learn the basics about steroids including what corticosteroids are; what steroids are produced in the body; some more steroid medicines; important dosing considerations; and our research on steroids.

Learn more about some common steroid pills and syrups (oral steroids) including how oral steroids are used, what a 'steroid burst' is, and routine use and possible side effects.


This information has been approved by Ronina Covar, MD and Ann Mullen, RN, MSN, CNS, AE-C (December 2012).