Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Inhaled corticosteroids for asthma
Information about this medicine
What are the most important things you need to know about your medicines?
Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.
The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Why are inhaled corticosteroids for asthma used?
Inhaled corticosteroids are used to help:
- You breathe better.
- Prevent and improve your asthma symptoms.
- Reduce asthma attacks.
These medicines are commonly used to treat asthma. They work well and are considered very safe. They are the preferred medicines for controlling asthma over the long term. There are also other types of controller medicines.
What are the two types of asthma medicines?
Asthma medicines are divided into two groups.
- Long-term (controller) medicines are used every day. They can result in fewer asthma symptoms and can help prevent asthma attacks.
- Quick-relief medicines help you breathe better during an asthma attack. You use them only when you need to.
Most medicines for asthma are inhaled. These types of medicines go straight to the airways.
What are some examples of inhaled corticosteroids for asthma?
Here are some examples of inhaled corticosteroids. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.
- beclomethasone (QVAR)
- budesonide (Pulmicort)
- fluticasone (Flovent)
- mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
This is not a complete list of these medicines.
How do inhaled corticosteroids for asthma work?
Inhaled corticosteroids reduce inflammation and mucus in the airways that carry air to the lungs. This makes it easier for you to breathe.
What about side effects?
You may get a sore mouth or throat or your voice may get hoarse when you use inhaled corticosteroids. You may also get a fungal infection in the mouth (thrush).
General information about side effects
All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.
But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.
If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Cautions about inhaled corticosteroids for asthma
Cautions for inhaled corticosteroids for asthma include the following:
- For controller medicines to work, you need to take them every day.
- Controller medicines don't help right away when you're having an asthma attack. They act too slowly.
- Always rinse your mouth after you use a corticosteroid inhaler. This can help you avoid thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth.
Cautions for all medicines
- Allergic reactions: All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
- Drug interactions: Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
- Harm to unborn babies and newborns: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take could harm your baby.
- Other health problems: Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. Other health problems may affect your medicine. Or the medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Current as of: February 24, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.