Inhaled Steroid Patient Information

What are inhaled steroids?

Inhaled steroids are medications used to prevent and/or control symptoms associated with "inflammation" of the airways in your lungs.

Several lung diseases, including asthma, are caused through an inflammatory process. This inflammatory reaction produces narrowing of your airways, which contributes to your symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing or cough. In the case of asthma, inhaled corticosteroids are currently the mainstay of therapy.

To be effective, this medication must be taken on a daily schedule as prescribed by your physician. If your asthma is slowly getting worse your doctor may want to increase your dose. Do not take this medication when you are having an acute asthma attack. It will not work and may make your breathing worse. 

What are some examples of inhaled steroids?

Generic Name  Trade Name 
Beclomethasone Beclovent, Vanceril
Flunisolide Aerobid
Fluticasone Flovent
Triamcinolone Azmacort

When should your inhaler be used?

  1. Use your inhaler on a daily schedule at spaced intervals as prescribed by your physician.
  2. If your physician has prescribed a bronchodilator, take your prescribed inhalations of that medication, wait 5 minutes, and then take your prescribed inhalations of the steroid. The bronchodilator will open "tight" airways and provide a larger surface for the steroids to be absorbed.
  3. If your physician prescribes Vanceril, Beclovent or Aerobid, always use that inhaler with a spacer device, such as an aerochamber. The aerochamber will minimize the amount of medicine that deposits in your mouth and throat. This will help prevent irritation of the upper airways that can cause cough. It will also help prevent development of fungal infection which can cause hoarseness and/or sore throat.
  4. If your physician prescribes Azmacort, always use that inhaler with the spacer device that is attached to it. This is important to insure that you are inhaling the proper dose.
  5. After each dose, rinse your mouth with water, gargle with water, and spit it out. This also minimizes the chance of developing a fungal infection (often seen as white patches on the inside of your mouth) which occasionally occurs.
  6. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember and resume your regular schedule.
  7. Do not stop this medication or alter your dose unless advised by your physician to do so.

Are there any side effects from this medication?

The most common side effect is a fungal infection of the mouth and throat. This can cause a sore throat and/or hoarseness.

Consult your physician if:

  1. You develop any soreness of the mouth or throat.
  2. You develop hoarseness or other changes in your voice.
  3. You develop any symptoms that concern you.