Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce the swelling inside airways and decrease the amount of mucus in the lungs.
There are many different types of anti-inflammatory medicines. The ones used most often in people with asthma are corticosteroids (steroids). Some common corticosteroids are:
- triamcinolone (Azmacort)
- betamethasone (Beclovent)
- prednisone (Prelone)
- methylprednisolone (SoluMedrol)
There are three ways to take cortcosteroid medications:
- inhaled using a metered dose inhaler
- swallowed as a liquid or a tablet (called oral corticosteroids)
- as shots (injections)
Inhaled corticosteroids are taken with a metered dose inhaler. When used correctly, inhaled corticosteroids are very safe. They are helpful for people who have bad asthma because they prevent swelling in the airways and they lessen how sensitive the airways are to asthma triggers.
Liquid and tablet (oral) corticosteroids are used during bad asthma attacks to reduce swelling of the airways and prevent the attacks from getting even worse. Most of the time, people take oral corticosteroids for 3-7 days and then stop taking them. Some people with very bad asthma may have to take oral corticosteroids every day or every other day.
Shots of corticosteroids are used only in a doctor’s office or emergency room for very bad attacks.
No matter which way you take them, when corticosteroids are used to treat bad asthma attacks, they take about 3 hours to start working.
Sometimes asthma medicines make people feel weird or sick at the same time the medicine is making their asthma better. These weird or sick feelings are called side effects.
Some of the side effects that people can get from corticosteroids are:
- Inhaled corticosteroids – may cause a yeast infection in the mouth or bother the upper airways and cause coughing. There are two things to do to keep these things from taking place: use a spacer device (an attachment on the inhaler), and rinse out your mouth after you take the medicine.
- Using oral corticosteroids for a short time may:
– make you feel hungry all of the time
– make your body hold onto extra water so that you look puffy
– make your face look round or swollen
– make you gain weight
– make you very happy, very sad, or very mad
– make your blood pressure go up
All of these side effects will go away when you stop taking the medicine, but do not stop taking this medicine without talking to your doctor first.
When oral corticosteroids are used for a very long time (years), they can have some bad side effects such as:
- high blood pressure
- making bones weak and easier to break
- weakness of the muscles
- slowing children’s growth
Because of these side effects, doctors try not to use oral corticosteroids for long periods of time.
Corticosteroids are not the same as the steroids used by some athletes. Inhaled corticosteroids and oral corticosteroids taken for a short time do not damage the liver or cause other long-lasting changes in the body.