Corticosteroids & Asthma

Corticosteroids are medicines that help prevent asthma symptoms occurring by reducing the inflammation in the airways.
What are corticosteroid?

Cortisone, is part of a family of substances known as steroids which are produced by the body to help it function normally. Corticosteroids were developed from cortisone and are agents that decrease inflammation. The medication is used in several forms, to treat many different conditions. It reduces itching, swelling, redness, and allergic reactions, used in treating skin problems, severe allergies, asthma and arthritis. Although corticosteroids are part of the steroid family they are not the same as the anabolic steroids some athletes and body-builders use to enhance their muscles and gain strength. Anabolic steroids can have serious side effects.

How do corticosteroids work in asthma?

Inhaled corticosteroids are prescribed for patients of all ages to treat different levels of persistent asthma. They work by dampening down the inflammation in the airways, and are the most effective agents for treating asthma. As a result, asthma symptoms and sudden acute attacks occur less often. To be effective, they usually need to be taken twice every day as prescribed by your doctor. They are of no benefit when used for symptoms, unlike bronchodilators or when taken on an odd occasion. Inhaled corticosteroids are a maintenance medicine that helps to prevent severe asthma symptoms.

Common Corticosteroids:
  • Beclazone® (Beclomethasone)
  • Flixotide® (Fluticasone)
  • Pulmicort® (Budesonide)
  • Q Var® (Beclomethasone)

Preventers may take 3 to 4 weeks to become effective, so it may take some time before you notice a difference in your child’s or your asthma. You may also notice that the blue inhaler is not needed as often.

Are steroids dangerous?

People are often concerned when they hear the word ‘steroid’. In fact, the steroid medicines used for asthma are not the same as those that sports people take. They are similar to those your body naturally produces.

Are there any side effects?

Because the amount of corticosteroid via a puffer is so small, side effects are uncommon. Some people on inhaled corticosteroids may have local side effects such as: sore throat, husky voice, thrush (an infection) in the mouth.

These side effects can be avoided by using a spacer. Brushing teeth and rinsing mouth with water and spitting out will also help. Inhaled steroids are not addictive.

Your doctor will help to choose the right dose.

Steroids given by mouth

During severe acute asthma episodes you/your child may need a higher dose of corticosteroids to be taken by mouth. This will be either prednisone tablets or Redipred® liquid (prednisolone).

A larger dose of steroid taken this way allows the medicine to work faster. The dose is carefully worked out according to you/your child’s weight.

It’s best to give each dose of steroid with food in the morning, usually at breakfast time.

The medicine is normally taken for 3-5 days.