Prednisolone and asthma
Steroids (anti-inflammatory medications) such as prednisolone can be used for asthma as well as other lung diseases. Prednisolone and other steroids (inhaled, oral, injection) help calm airway inflammation in asthma.
If you've ever had a serious asthma attack, you may have had high doses of steroids administered intravenously in hospital. When prednisolone or other steroid medications are used in a severe asthma attack, there is no doubt that the benefits of steroids far outweigh the risks.
What is prednisolone?
Prednisolone is an oral steroid medication. If you have serious worsening of asthma symptoms (asthma attack), your doctor may prescribe a brief course of oral steroids such as prednisolone. Oral steroids may also be prescribed when your asthma symptoms worsen but you do not require hospitalisation.
How does prednisolone work to treat asthma?
Oral prednisolone is a systemic steroid. That means that after taking prednisolone by mouth (orally), it goes directly into the bloodstream, unlike inhaled steroids (anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers) that go straight to the lungs.
Prednisolone and other systemic steroids may be used to treat asthma attacks and help people gain better asthma control. Steroids are used with other asthma medications to either control sudden and severe asthma attacks or to treat long-term, hard-to-control asthma.
How long does it take for prednisolone to treat asthma?
Sometimes systemic steroids such as prednisolone are taken in high doses for a few days. This is called a steroid burst. They may also be given in a low dose daily or every other day for long-term control.
Are prednisolone and other oral steroids safe for asthma?
While a two-week course or “short burst” of oral steroids like prednisolone is relatively safe, it’s important to avoid steroids on a long-term basis, as there are serious side effects. Taking supplementary calcium at this time may help you to prevent osteoporosis or thinning of the bones, which is a serious side effect of long-term steroid use.
What if I need to take prednisone frequently for asthma?
If you need steroids frequently for “rescue” therapy, this can suggest poor control of airway inflammation or continued exposure to some unsuspected allergen. In this case, talk to your doctor about inhaled anti-inflammatory medications.
What are the side effects of prednisolone and other steroids?
Steroids have many potential side effects, especially when given orally and for a long period of time. Side effects with short-term use include:
Side effects with long-term use include:
- Growth suppression.
- Cataracts of the eyes.
- Bone-thinning osteoporosis.
- Muscle weakness.
When are inhaled steroids used for asthma?
Anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers have become the first line of treatment for asthma and may play a role in other lung diseases. In fact, recent studies support the use of anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers early in the course of disease. After the introduction of inhaled steroids, the need for oral steroids such as prednisone may decrease.
Unlike the serious side effects of oral steroids, the most common side effects of anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers are hoarseness and thrush, especially in the elderly. As with all asthma inhalers, you should rinse the mouth carefully. Gargle with water after inhalation to help reduce the risk of oral thrush.