Inhaled steroids are medicines used to prevent symptoms caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are also called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Inhaled steroids are also called a controller medicine, because by taking it regularly every day, it helps to control your symptoms. You will take these medicines every day, even if you are not having symptoms. They do not provide quick relief of wheezing in acute attacks. For acute attacks, you will need a different type of medicine called a reliever.
If you have asthma or COPD, you may have symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Your symptoms are caused by two different problems in the airways.
One problem is that the muscles in the airways tighten up, which causes the feeling of chest tightness and wheezing.
The other problem is swelling, irritation and too much mucus in the airways.
If you have asthma, your symptoms often start after you are exposed to a trigger. Asthma triggers can include pollen, animals, mold, colds, exercise, cold air, and air pollutants. It is important to know what triggers your asthma so that you can avoid those things or take your reliever medicine before being around a trigger.
You may notice that asthma symptoms come and go throughout the day or week and get better with medicine.
If you have COPD, your symptoms usually get worse over time and never completely go away.
How do they work?
Inhaled steroids are similar to hormones made by your body. They block some of the chemicals that cause irritation and swelling in your body. By lessening the swelling in your airway, you will have fewer symptoms and be able to breathe better.
Your medicine can be taken in different ways. For example:
A hand-held device, such as a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) or a dry powder inhaler is small and easy to carry with you. Inhalers help send the medicine directly to your lungs as you take a deep breath. Some MDI medicines may need a spacer. A spacer is a small tube or bag that holds the medicine while you breathe it in to your lungs.
A nebulizer is a machine that you use at home. Medicine is mixed with liquid and the machine forms a mist. You will breath in the mist to help get the medicine in to your lungs.
What else do I need to know about this medicine?
Rinse your mouth and spit after each dose. This helps prevent a mouth infection called thrush.
Follow the directions that come with your medicine, including information about food or alcohol. Make sure you know how and when to take your medicine. Do not take more or less than you are supposed to take.
Try to get all of your prescriptions filled at the same place. Your pharmacist can help make sure that all of your medicines are safe to take together.
Keep a list of your medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all of the products you are taking.
Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.
If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-12-26 Last reviewed: 2013-12-26
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Inhaled Steroids: References
UpToDate – â€œTreatment of intermittent and mild persistent asthma in adolescents and adultsâ€ Accessed 11/30/2012
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, Full Report 2007. NIH publication 07-4051. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, Aug. 28, 2007. Accessed December 17, 2007 from <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/asthgdln.pdf>
Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR-3): Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma-summary report 2007. J Allergy Clin Immunol 120 (2007):S94-138.
Stevenson DD, Szczeklik A. Clinical and pathologic perspectives on aspirin sensitivity and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 118 (2006):773-86.