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Using Oral Corticosteroids for Asthma Flare-Ups

Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral corticosteroids for asthma flare-ups. These are not the steroids that you hear about athletes abusing. They are medicines that help to reduce swelling and mucus production in the airways. Often they are only taken for a short time. For example, they may be taken for 5 days. Sometimes people with asthma have to take them for a longer time.

While taking these medicines, it’s important that you:

  • Keep tracking your asthma symptoms

  • Keep taking your long-term controller medicines

  • Use your quick-relief medicines as needed

  • Contact your provider if you have side effects

Tips for taking your medicine

Make sure you take the medicine exactly as it is prescribed. The directions can be confusing. If you are unsure ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Keep these instructions on your Asthma Action Plan.

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to follow an Asthma Action Plan. This is a written worksheet made just for you. It is put together by you and your provider. It gives exact steps to take for early treatment of your asthma symptoms. These steps will help keep your asthma from getting worse. The worksheet also advises when to call your healthcare provider, call 911, or go to the emergency room. Go over the worksheet with your close family members. And keep a copy with you. Take it with you to your appointments so it can be updated every year or when your treatments change.

  • Sometimes, the dose is higher when you start taking the medicine. Then it is slowly lowered until you are done. This is called tapering.

  • Don’t forget to take your medicine on time. To help you remember, try taking your medicine when you brush your teeth. Consider setting an alarm on your phone, smart watch, or computer to help you remember. Write down each dose as you take it so you don't accidentally miss a dose or take extra medicine.

  • Don’t stop taking this medicine unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Take all the medicine as directed until it is gone.

  • Know what to do if you happen to miss a dose. Write this on your Asthma Action plan. If you realize you aren't sure about what to do, contact your healthcare provider, as soon as possible, or your pharmacist.

 Common oral corticosteroids

  • Methylprednisolone

  • Prednisolone

  • Prednisolone sodium phosphate

  • Prednisone

Side effects

This medicine has few side effects when taken for a short time. The most common ones include:

  • Appetite changes

  • Nervousness

  • Sleep problems

  • Indigestion

If you have diabetes, it may make your blood sugar hard to control.

If this medicine is used for a long time, more serious side effects may occur. These include:

  • Acne

  • Weight gain

  • Mood changes

  • High blood pressure

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Sleep problems

  • Stomach, eye, or bone problems

Don't take more medicine than prescribed. And don't take it more often than you are supposed to.

Talk with your healthcare provider about any side effects that you have. In the meantime, don’t stop taking your medicine.

These medicines can cause problems with other medicines. They can also make other health problems worse. Let your healthcare providers know about all the medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell all your providers that you are taking oral corticosteroids, including your dentist.

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Trouble seeing

  • Need to urinate more often than normal

  • Increased thirst

  • Asthma symptoms that get worse

  • Other new symptoms that concern you

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.