Generic Name: dexamethasone, Oral tablet

Decadron,DexPak Jr TaperPak,DexPak TaperPak,Zema-Pak

All Brands

  • Decadron
  • DexPak Jr TaperPak
  • DexPak TaperPak
  • Zema-Pak
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for dexamethasone

Oral tablet
1

Dexamethasone is available in these forms: oral tablet, oral liquid, eye drop, and ear drop.

2

Avoid vaccines when taking this drug. People on dexamethasone may have a lower response to vaccines. The drug may also increase the activity of some live vaccines.

3

Possible serious side effects of this drug include steroid psychosis (severe mood changes) and withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly.

4

Depending on the condition you’re treating, you may take your dose once every 6 to 12 hours.

5

Always take as prescribed. Don’t suddenly stop taking dexamethasone. Contact your doctor before stopping the drug.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Heart damage risk

Be careful with this drug if you’ve recently had a heart attack. You may be at increased risk for further heart damage.

Infection warning

Dexamethasone can cover up or worsen certain infections. In addition, infections can develop during treatment. Don’t use the drug if you have fungal infections or have a history of parasite infections or tuberculosis. Tell your healthcare provider about any history of past illnesses or infections.

Cataracts & glaucoma warning

Using dexamethasone for long periods can lead to cataracts or glaucoma with possible damage to the optic nerves. It may also lead to secondary fungal or viral eye infections.

Measles & chickenpox warning

Tell your healthcare provider if you haven’t had chickenpox or measles, or if you haven’t had the vaccinations to prevent them. You could have more serious versions of these illnesses if you become ill while taking dexamethasone.

Drug Features

Dexamethasone is a prescription medication. It’s available in these forms: oral tablet, oral liquid, eye drop, and ear drop.

It’s also available in a generic version. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if the generic will work for you.

Why It's Used

Dexamethasone oral tablet is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity, and hormone deficiency.

More Details

How It Works

Dexamethasone is a steroid that decreases your body's response to inflammation and reduces the activity of your immune system.

More Details

Why It's Used

Dexamethasone oral tablet is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity, and hormone deficiency.

It’s approved for:

  • inflammation
  • allergic reactions
  • rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and acute gouty arthritis.
  • skin diseases
  • flare-ups of intestinal disease, such as ulcerative colitis
  • flare-ups of multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis
  • as a pre-treatment for chemotherapy to reduce inflammation and side effects from cancer medications
  • adrenal insufficiency. In this condition, the adrenal glands fail to produce enough steroid hormones.

How It Works

Dexamethasone is a steroid that decreases your body's response to inflammation and reduces the activity of your immune system.

In certain conditions, inflammation can result in an overactive immune system and can cause damage to the body's tissues. Steroids such as dexamethasone can help block the body's response to inflammation.

Dexamethasone is used to replace hormones in people with adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal gland helps control certain body functions, such as blood glucose, fighting infection, and controlling stress. In people with adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal gland releases lower amounts of certain hormones. Dexamethasone helps replace these hormones.

SECTION 2 of 5

dexamethasone Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with dexamethasone include:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • stomach upset

  • swelling (edema)

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • changes in mood

  • changes in sleep

  • anxiety

  • low potassium levels (feeling washed out and tired)

  • high blood glucose

  • hypertension

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening, or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • unusual fatigue or dizziness

  • unusual stomach pain

  • unusual nausea or vomiting

  • blood in your stool or black stools

  • blood in your urine

  • unusual bleeding or bruising

  • unusual swelling or bloating

  • signs of infection (fever, muscle aches, joint pain)

  • changes in mood or thoughts

  • symptoms associated with severe allergic reaction, such as fever and trouble breathing

  • adrenal insufficiency

  • severe mood changes

  • getting more infections. This may happen with long-term use.

  • stomach ulcers

  • congestive heart failure

  • osteoporosis

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Dexamethasone does not cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

dexamethasone May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Dexamethasone can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

Alzheimer’s drugs

Combining dexamethasone with these drugs can cause severe weakness in people with myasthenia gravis. If possible, these drugs shouldn’t be given within 24 hours before starting dexamethasone therapy.

These drugs include:

  • memantine (Namenda)
  • rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • donepezil (Aricept)

Aminoglutethimide

This drug may increase the effects of dexamethasone on the adrenal glands.

Antibiotics and antifungal drugs
  • Amphotericin B injection. This is an intravenous treatment for fungal infection. This type of drug may interact with dexamethasone to reduce your body’s potassium levels. Symptoms may include muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats.
  • isoniazid (used to treat tuberculosis)
  • ketoconazole
  • macrolide antibiotics, such as erythromycin
  • rifampin

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Combining NSAIDs with dexamethasone  can increase risk of stomach upset. Use these drugs cautiously.

Some of these include:

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen
  • indomethacin
  • naproxen

Blood thinner, anticoagulant

Combining dexamethasone with these drugs may affect bleeding and require more monitoring.

  • warfarin

Cholesterol-reducing drug

If you take this drug with dexamethasone, your body may clear the dexamethasone too quickly. This would cause dexamethasone not to work as well.

  • cholestyramine (Questran)

Diabetes drugs

Dexamethasone may increase blood glucose concentrations. You may need a different dose of these drugs.

Decongestant

Using this decongestant with dexamethasone may make the dexamethasone clear your body too quickly:

  • ephedrine

Diuretics

These interact with dexamethasone to reduce your body’s potassium levels. This can give you muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats.

Some of these include:

  • bumetanide
  • furosemide
  • hydrochlorothiazide

Epilepsy drugs
  • phenytoin
  • carbamazepine

Heart drug

Taking this heart drug with dexamethasone could increase your risk for irregular heartbeats caused by low potassium:

  • digoxin (Lanoxin)

HIV drug
  • indinavir (Crixivan)

Hormones
  • estrogens and oral contraceptives

Immunosuppressant drug

Taking this drug with dexamethasone could increase your risk for immune suppression:

  • cyclosporine

Sedatives/sleeping pills

These drugs can reduce the effectiveness of dexamethasone:

  • phenobarbital
  • secobarbital (Seconal)

Thalidomide

Thalidomide is used to treat skin lesions and multiple myeloma. Combining it with dexamethasone can cause toxic epidermal necrolysis, a potentially life-threatening skin condition.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

People with congestive heart failure, hypertension, renal insufficiency

Dexamethasone can increase sodium retention, edema, and potassium loss. This can lead to worsened heart failure and increased blood pressure. People with these conditions should be cautious when using this drug.

People with peptic ulcers

This drug can increase the risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding and ulcers. People with peptic ulcers or other conditions of the intestine should be cautious when using this drug. Conditions of the intestine include:

  • diverticulitis
  • ulcerative colitis 

People with osteoporosis

Dexamethasone decreases bone formation and increases bone resorption. This can increase the risk of osteoporosis, particularly in people at an increased risk for osteoporosis, such as post-menopausal women.

People with hyperthyroid/hypothyroid

This drug is removed from the body quicker in people with hyperthyroid and removed slower in people with hypothyroid. Dose changes may be necessary in people with these conditions.

People with diabetes

Dexamethasone can increase blood sugar levels. People with diabetes may need dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

Pregnant women

Dexamethasone is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans.

Category C drugs can still be used if their benefits outweigh the risks.

Women who are nursing

Dexamethasone is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding. The drug can pass to a baby through breast milk.

When to call the doctor

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop a new or worsened illness while taking dexamethasone, including signs of fever.

SECTION 4 of 5

How to Take dexamethasone (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

Inflammation
Form: Oral Tablet
Strengths: 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)

0.75–9 mg every 6 to 12 hours, depending on the condition being treated.

Child Dosage (ages 0-17 years)
  • The initial dose of dexamethasone may vary, depending on the condition being treated.
  • The range of initial doses is 0.02–0.3 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day in three or four divided doses.
  • In body surface area measurements, the range is 0.6–9 mg per meter squared of body surface per day.

Warnings

When stopping treatment, your dose should be decreased over time to avoid withdrawal side effects.

Adrenal insufficiency
Form: Oral Tablet
Strengths: 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)

0.75–9 mg every 6 to 12 hours, depending on the condition being treated.

Child Dosage (ages 0-17 years)
  • The initial dose of dexamethasone may vary, depending on the condition being treated.
  • The range of initial doses is 0.02–0.3 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day in three or four divided doses.
  • In body surface area measurements, the range is 0.6–9 mg per meter squared of body surface per day.

Warnings

When stopping treatment, your dose should be decreased over time to avoid withdrawal side effects.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

There can be very serious health consequences if you don’t take dexamethasone exactly as your doctor tells you, including how you stop taking it.

If You Stop Taking It Suddenly

Don’t stop taking dexamethasone suddenly. The dose should be decreased over time to avoid withdrawal side effects that can occur from stopping the drug too soon. These effects include:

  • general discomfort
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain

Contact your doctor before stopping dexamethasone.

What to Do If You Miss a Dose

If you miss a dose, wait and take the next dose as planned. Don’t double your dose.

How to Tell If the Drug Is Working

You may be able to tell the drug is working if it reduces your signs and symptoms of inflammation. Your signs of inflammation will depend on the specific condition being treated.

If you’re being treated for adrenal insufficiency, the drug should reduce your symptoms.

Dexamethasone may be used as long-term treatment for certain conditions.

The dose should be decreased over time when stopping the drug to avoid withdrawal side effects.

Contact your doctor before stopping dexamethasone.

Important Considerations for Taking Dexamethasone
take with food Take dexamethasone with food. Taking it with food can reduce stomach upset from the drug
can crush tablet You can cut or crush the tablet
storage Store at room temperature: 68–77°F (20–25°C) See Details
refillable Prescription is refillable
clinical monitoring Clinical Monitoring See Details

Store at room temperature: 68–77°F (20–25°C)

Protect from moisture.

Note: Be careful of moist environments, including bathrooms. To keep drugs away from moisture, store them somewhere other than your bathroom and any other damp location.

Clinical Monitoring

Your healthcare provider may perform tests to monitor for side effects from long-term use of dexamethasone. These may include:

  • weight test
  • blood pressure test
  • eye test (glaucoma screening)
  • bone marrow density tests (osteoporosis screening)
  • X-ray of your gastrointestinal tract. This is done if you experience signs or symptoms of peptic ulcer (severe stomach upset, vomiting, blood in stool).

Are There Any Alternatives?

Possible alternatives to this drug include:

  • prednisone (Deltasone, Rayos)
  • prednisolone (Prelone, Orapred, Millipred)

What does the pill look like?

Showing - out of 24
SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does dexamethasone Cost?

Oral tablet
We've partnered with GoodRX so you can compare prices and save money on your next prescription. Check out the lowest cash prices below and enter your zip code to find the best deal near you.

Compare prices and save money on your next refill!

Lowest price for dexamethasone

Kroger Pharmacy $10.67
Walmart $13.90
Sams Club $13.90
These represent the lowest cash prices for dexamethasone and may be lower than your insurance.

Find the lowest prices of dexamethasone near you

These represent the lowest cash prices for dexamethasone and may be lower than your insurance.

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Content developed in collaboration with Stacey Boudreaux, PharmD

Medically reviewed by Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA and Alan Carter, PharmD on January 5, 2015

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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