If you have a condition involving inflammation (swelling) in your body, your doctor may prescribe prednisone. It’s a generic prescription medication that’s used to treat a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune health conditions in adults and children. Examples of these conditions include:
- severe allergies
- various forms of arthritis, bursitis, and tenosynovitis
- certain skin diseases, including psoriasis and severe eczema
- inflammatory eye conditions, such as keratitis
- inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis
- flare-ups of multiple sclerosis
- certain blood disorders, such as hemolytic anemia
- leukemias and lymphomas
- certain hormone problems, such as adrenal insufficiency
To learn more about prednisone’s uses, see “What is prednisone used for?” below.
Prednisone belongs to a group of drugs called corticosteroids (often referred to as steroids).
Prednisone comes as an immediate-release tablet that you swallow. (An immediate-release drug is released into your body right away.) Prednisone also comes in other forms taken by mouth, but these are not covered in this article.
Prednisone brand-name versions
The prednisone immediate-release tablet is only available as a generic drug.
Like most drugs, prednisone may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of its more common side effects. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of prednisone. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that prednisone can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read prednisone’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of prednisone that have been reported include:
- indigestion (upset stomach)
- increased appetite
- weight gain
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- fluid retention
- increased sweating
- skin thinning
- slow wound healing
- muscle wasting
- muscle weakness
- mood changes, such as anxiety or irritability
- mild allergic reaction*
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from prednisone can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from prednisone, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of prednisone that have been reported include:
- high blood pressure
- low potassium levels
- raised risk of infection
- weakened bones and osteoporosis
- ulcers in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine
- high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes
- eye problems, such as glaucoma and cataracts
- adrenal insufficiency (when taken at very high doses or for a long period of time)
- mental health conditions such as personality changes, depression, or psychosis (loss of touch with reality)
- slowed growth in children
- severe allergic reaction*
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to prednisone. It’s not known how often this occurs.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to prednisone. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Prednisone is used to reduce inflammation (swelling) and overactivity in your immune system. Doctors prescribe it to treat a wide variety of inflammatory and autoimmune health conditions. With autoimmune conditions, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in your body.
Examples of conditions prednisone is used to treat include:
- severe allergies, including hay fever and allergic skin reactions
- various forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and gout
- inflammation of tendons or other structures around your joints, such as bursitis and tenosynovitis
- skin diseases, including psoriasis and severe eczema
- eye conditions, such as keratitis, uveitis, and optic neuritis
- inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis
- flare-ups of multiple sclerosis
- certain blood disorders, such as hemolytic anemia and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- certain cancers, such as leukemias and lymphomas
Prednisone treats these conditions by reducing activity in your immune system. It stops your immune system from producing certain chemicals that would usually cause inflammation. Prednisone is a type of drug called a corticosteroid.
Prednisone has other uses as well. For example, it’s sometimes used to treat hormone problems, such as adrenal insufficiency. With this condition, your adrenal glands don’t produce enough natural steroid hormones. For this condition, you’ll take prednisone to help replace your natural steroid hormones.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about prednisone.
Does my risk of side effects from prednisone depend on the dose I take (such as 5 mg or 20 mg)?
Yes, it’s possible. As with many medications, taking a higher dosage of prednisone may raise your risk of side effects. But several other factors can also affect your risk for side effects. These include:
- the length of time you take prednisone
- your age
- other medical conditions you have
- other medications you take
If you’re concerned about the risk of side effects with the prednisone dosage you’ve been prescribed, talk with your doctor.
Is prednisone for humans the same drug that’s used in dogs and cats?
Yes, it is. Prednisone can treat similar conditions in dogs and cats as it can in people. The drug hasn’t been approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But veterinarians commonly prescribe the drug to treat inflammatory conditions in dogs and cats. This is an off-label use of the drug. (With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s FDA-approved for.)
Even though it can be used in dogs and cats, you should not give prednisone to your pet unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Is prednisone used for sinus infection or cough?
No, you’re unlikely to be prescribed prednisone for a sinus infection or cough. These conditions are usually mild and easily managed with over-the-counter medications or home remedies. The risk of side effects with prednisone usually outweighs its benefits for these conditions.
Your doctor might prescribe prednisone if you have a cough associated with a respiratory infection, such as bronchitis or COVID-19, that is causing inflammation in your lungs. But this is an off-label use of the drug. If your doctor prescribes prednisone for a cough caused by a respiratory infection, they’ll also prescribe medication to treat the infection.
Does prednisone cause different side effects in females* than in males*?
No, prednisone typically causes the same side effects in females and males. But if you’re female, prednisone may also affect your menstrual cycle. For example, you may miss periods, or your periods may become irregular or more painful.
If you have questions about how prednisone may affect you, talk with your doctor.
* In this article, we use the terms “female” and “male” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
What should I know about alternatives to prednisone, such as prednisolone and dexamethasone?
Prednisone is a type of drug called a corticosteroid. Other corticosteroids include prednisolone (Prelone, Orapred), dexamethasone, and hydrocortisone (Cortef).
The main differences between these drugs are how potent (strong) the drugs are, their side effects, and the forms they come in.
All corticosteroids reduce inflammation (swelling) and overactivity in your immune system. They have some similar side effects and others that vary. For example, dexamethasone is less likely than prednisone to cause fluid retention, high blood pressure, and low potassium levels. So your doctor may prescribe dexamethasone if these side effects could be dangerous for you.
Prednisone and prednisolone are similar drugs. In fact, prednisone is converted into prednisolone by your liver. These drugs have similar side effects, uses, dosages, and interactions.
If you’d like to learn more about alternatives to prednisone, talk with your doctor.
Does stopping prednisone treatment cause withdrawal symptoms?
Yes, stopping prednisone treatment suddenly could cause withdrawal symptoms in some people. (Withdrawal symptoms are side effects that can occur if you suddenly stop taking a drug that your body has become dependent on.) But whether you have withdrawal symptoms depends on your dosage and how long you’ve been taking prednisone.
If you take prednisone for a long time or at a high dose, your adrenal glands think they should stop producing the natural steroid hormone called cortisol. When that happens, your body can become dependent on prednisone. Withdrawal symptoms you may have if you suddenly stop taking prednisone can include severe tiredness, weakness, body aches and pains, and feeling generally unwell.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions when stopping prednisone treatment. If you’ve been taking prednisone for a long time or taking a high dose, your doctor will likely lower your dose gradually when ending your treatment. This allows your adrenal glands to start producing cortisol (your natural steroid hormones) again, which helps prevent withdrawal symptoms. But if you’ve only taken prednisone for a short time, you may be able to stop treatment without having to gradually reduce your dose.
If you’re concerned about withdrawal symptoms with prednisone, talk with your doctor.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of prednisone that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Form and strengths
Prednisone comes as an immediate-release tablet that you swallow. (An immediate-release drug is released into your body right away.)
The tablets are available in the following strengths:
- 1 milligram (mg)
- 2.5 mg
- 5 mg
- 10 mg
- 20 mg
- 50 mg
The recommended dosage for prednisone depends on several factors. These include:
- the condition being treated and its severity
- your age
- other medical conditions you have
- how you respond to prednisone
You may take prednisone as a short-term or long-term treatment.
You’ll typically take prednisone once per day in the morning. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe a higher dose every other morning instead of once per day. This may help lower your risk of side effects.
To learn more about prednisone’s dosage, see this article.
Questions about prednisone’s dosage
Below are some common questions about prednisone’s dosage.
- What if I miss a dose of prednisone? If you miss a dose, take the missed dose as soon as possible. But if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at its usual time. You should not take two doses at once to make up for a missed dose. Doing so could raise your risk of side effects.
- Will I need to use prednisone long term? It depends on the reason for taking it. Your doctor will recommend how long you should take prednisone.
- How long does prednisone take to work? Prednisone starts to work quickly. You may notice your symptoms start to get better within a few hours or days of starting treatment.
Several factors can affect whether prednisone is right for you. For example, the medication may interact with other conditions you have and other medications you take. Before taking prednisone, talk with your doctor about your health history.
Some factors to consider are discussed below.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking prednisone, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take (including prescription and over-the-counter types). Also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with prednisone.
For information about drug-condition interactions, see the “Warnings” section below.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Prednisone can interact with several types of drugs. Examples include:
- diabetes drugs, such as glipizide (Glucotrol XL) and metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza, others)
- diuretic drugs (water pills), such as furosemide (Lasix) and hydrochlorothiazide
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- certain antifungal drugs, such as itraconazole (Sporanox) and ketoconazole
- certain seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, others)
- certain HIV drugs, such as ritonavir (Norvir) and darunavir (Prezista)
- the antibacterial drug rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
- the antidepressant drug bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- the blood thinner warfarin (Jantoven)
- mifepristone (Korlym, Mifeprex), a drug used for Cushing’s syndrome and to terminate a pregnancy
This list doesn’t contain all types of drugs that may interact with prednisone. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with the use of prednisone.
Prednisone weakens part of your immune system, so it can affect how your immune system responds to vaccines. If you get vaccines while taking prednisone, they may not be as effective as usual.
You should not get live vaccines while taking prednisone because they could cause serious infections. (Live vaccines contain live but weakened forms of the virus it’s meant to protect against.) Examples of live vaccines include:
Talk with your doctor before getting any vaccines while taking prednisone.
Prednisone can sometimes cause harmful effects in people who have certain conditions. This is known as a drug-condition interaction. Other factors may also affect whether prednisone is a good treatment option for you.
Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take prednisone. Factors to consider include those described below.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to prednisone or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe this drug. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.
Infections. Prednisone weakens part of your immune system and can raise your risk for infections. Before taking prednisone, talk with your doctor about any current or past infections you’ve had, especially herpes or tuberculosis. If needed, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your infection before you start taking prednisone.
While taking prednisone, avoid contact with people who are sick, especially with measles or chickenpox. These infections can be serious or even life threatening if you have a weak immune system due to prednisone. If you develop an infection while taking this drug, see your doctor right away.
Diabetes. Taking prednisone for a long time or at a high dose can increase your blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, this could make your blood sugar harder to manage. Your doctor may recommend checking your blood sugar more often while you’re taking prednisone. If needed, they may adjust the dosage of your diabetes medication.
Osteoporosis. Long-term use of prednisone can weaken your bones. If you have osteoporosis, this could worsen your condition. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help protect and strengthen your bones if you take prednisone for a long time.
High blood pressure. Prednisone can increase your blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may check it more often while you take prednisone. If needed, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure. Or they may increase the dosage of blood pressure medications you already take.
Stomach or duodenal ulcer. If you have a stomach ulcer or duodenal ulcer, prednisone could make it worse. Taking prednisone with an NSAID (pain reliever) such as ibuprofen can also increase your risk of developing or worsening an ulcer. If you have one of these ulcers, talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
Mental health conditions. Prednisone can sometimes cause mood changes and mental health conditions such as depression or psychosis. If you’ve had a past mental health problem, you may have a raised risk for these side effects. Talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
Kidney or liver problems. If you have kidney or liver problems, you may have a higher risk of side effects with prednisone. Your doctor may prescribe a lower dosage of prednisone. If you have a kidney or liver condition, talk with your doctor before starting prednisone treatment.
Heart failure. Prednisone may worsen symptoms of heart failure, such as fluid retention. If you have heart failure, talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
Eye problems. Prednisone can increase the pressure in your eye. If you have glaucoma, this could worsen your condition. Prednisone can also worsen cataracts and eye infections. If you have an eye problem, talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
Prednisone and alcohol
Prednisone isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But drinking alcohol while taking this drug may raise your risk of certain side effects, such as headache, nausea, or indigestion (upset stomach).
In addition, prednisone can sometimes cause stomach ulcers. Drinking excessively could raise your risk of this side effect.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much is safe to consume during treatment with prednisone.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
See below for details about prednisone’s use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Prednisone may be used during pregnancy at the lowest dose and for the shortest time period needed. But there are risks with taking prednisone during pregnancy. For example, if you have fluid retention or high blood pressure during your pregnancy, prednisone could make your condition worse.
If you take prednisone for long periods during pregnancy, this may raise the risk of certain side effects in a fetus. These include:
- slowed growth in the womb and low birth weight
- adrenal insufficiency (when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones)
In most cases, the benefits of taking prednisone during pregnancy will outweigh these risks. But if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
Doctors may prescribe prednisone to someone who’s breastfeeding if the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks.
Prednisone can pass into breast milk in small amounts. But side effects haven’t been reported in children who were exposed to the drug through breast milk.
Taking high doses of prednisone while breastfeeding could raise the risk of side effects in a breastfed child. High doses of prednisone may also reduce the production of breast milk. But in most cases, doctors consider prednisone safe to take at low doses while breastfeeding.
If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about whether prednisone is right for you.
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Your doctor will explain how to take prednisone. They’ll also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Prednisone comes as tablets that you swallow. You’ll likely take a dose once per day in the morning.
Accessible medication containers and labels
If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies provide medication labels that:
- have large print
- use braille
- contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text to audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put prednisone in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.
Questions about taking prednisone
Below are some common questions about taking prednisone.
- Can prednisone be chewed, crushed, or split? Yes, prednisone tablets are scored and can be split if needed. If you have trouble swallowing them, these tablets can also be crushed or chewed.
- Should I take prednisone with food? Yes, it’s best to take prednisone with food. This helps prevent the drug from upsetting your stomach.
- Is there a best time of day to take prednisone? You should take prednisone in the morning unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about prednisone and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will prednisone affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Prednisone is not likely to be misused. (Drug misuse refers to taking a drug in a way or for a use that’s not prescribed by a doctor.)
Although prednisone doesn’t have a risk for misuse, it’s possible to become dependent on this medication. Prednisone is similar to the natural steroid hormone cortisol. Taking it for long periods of time or in high doses can make your adrenal glands stop producing cortisol. If you suddenly stop taking prednisone, your body may not have enough steroid hormones to function normally. This can cause withdrawal symptoms (side effects that can occur if you suddenly stop taking a drug that your body has become dependent on).
Withdrawal symptoms that can occur after stopping prednisone include severe tiredness, weakness, body aches and pains, and feeling generally unwell.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions when stopping your prednisone treatment. If you’ve been taking prednisone for a long time or in a high dose, your doctor will likely lower your dose gradually when ending your treatment. This allows your adrenal glands to start producing natural steroid hormones again, which helps prevent withdrawal symptoms. But if you’ve only taken prednisone for a short time, you may be able to stop treatment without having to gradually reduce your dose.
If you have questions about how to end your prednisone treatment safely, talk with your doctor.
Do not take more prednisone than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects.
What to do in case you take too much prednisone
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much prednisone. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room.
If you have questions about taking prednisone, talk with your doctor. Examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor include:
- How long will I need to take prednisone?
- Are there any long-term side effects of prednisone I should know about?
- Are there other treatment options for my condition?
To learn more about prednisone, see this article:
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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 another 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.