Inhaled Corticosteroids for Asthma Control

Your inhaler may look different from this metered dose inhaler, but they both deliver a corticosteroid.

Inhaled corticosteroids can help you control your asthma over the long term. These medicines help prevent asthma flare-ups. They do this by easing the swelling and inflammation in your airways. They are sometimes called controller medicines. They may be combined with another type of medicine into one inhaler. The other medicine might be along-acting bronchodilator.

Inhaled corticosteroids are safe. They are not the steroids you hear about that athletes abuse. The doses of inhaled corticosteroids that your healthcare provider prescribes don’t often cause side effects. That’s because you inhale them right into your lungs. This is where they’re needed. They have little effect on the rest of your body.

Side effects

Possible side effects of these medicines include hoarse voice, sore throat, or oral thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth. It causes white patches and soreness.

You can lower your chances of side effects if you:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about using a spacer or holding chamber with your inhaler. These devices help the medicine get to your lungs more easily.

  • Gargle, rinse your mouth, and spit out the water after using the steroid inhaler. This simple step will help prevent some side effects.

  • Work with your provider to find the lowest dose to control your asthma.

Using your inhaled corticosteroid

  • Corticosteroid inhalers come in two types. One is a metered dose inhaler. The other is a dry powder inhaler. Ask your healthcare provider, nurse, or pharmacist which type you have. Also ask them how to use it. Follow the product's directions for how to clean and store the inhaler.

  • Most people take these medicines every day. They do this even if their asthma symptoms are well controlled. Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids do not relieve symptoms quickly like rescue inhalers do. Be sure you know what medicine to use in case of an emergency. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Medicines and your Asthma Action Plan

Medicines play a key role in controlling your asthma. It’s important to use them the correct way. Use your Asthma Action Plan as your guide. Keep more notes if you have symptoms that are new or that get worse. Write down what you were doing when the symptoms happened. Bring the Asthma Action Plan and your notes with you to every appointment. Then you can review and update your Asthma Action Plan with your healthcare provider. And don’t stop taking your asthma medicine if you feel better. Talk with your provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Contact your provider right away if you don't have an Asthma Action Plan. Update your Asthma Action Plans every year. And every time your asthma treatment changes. Refer to your Asthma Action Plan during flare-ups. Or if your symptoms get worse.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
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