Prednisone acts on the immune system to reduce inflammation in the airways of people with asthma. It takes several hours to work and must be taken for several days to prevent inflammation from returning.
Prednisone is a synthetic anti-inflammatory medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is a delayed-release corticosteroid that derives from the hormone cortisone. It comes in oral or liquid form.
Prednisone is typically given for a short period, like if you have to go to the emergency room or are hospitalized due to an asthma attack.
Prednisone can also be given as long-term treatment if your asthma is severe or hard to manage.
Prednisone helps reduce lung inflammation. It also works by decreasing the production of mucus. It is an effective treatment for acute asthma, and it continues to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the days following an asthma flare-up.
In most cases, you would take it for 5 to 10 days to reduce flare-up symptoms. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that oral corticosteroids like prednisone help reduce asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations.
If you need to use prednisone more than twice a year, speak with your doctor to discuss better management options for your asthma.
Although oral corticosteroids can effectively alleviate asthma symptoms, they can also cause significant side effects.
The side effects of prednisone can include:
- fluid retention
- high blood pressure
- changes in blood sugar levels
- weight gain
- nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- mood or behavioral changes
- increased risk of infection due to immunosuppression
- eye changes, such as glaucoma or cataracts
- negative effect on growth or development (when prescribed to children)
Many side effects, such as osteoporosis and eye changes, typically occur after long-term use. But there is some limited evidence that some side effects can develop even after just a week of use. In particular, short use may be associated with the following:
- bone density loss
- high blood pressure
- gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding
It is also associated with vomiting, as well as psychological and behavioral issues in children. For these reasons, doctors are advised to prescribe prednisone and other corticosteroids only when necessary.
In adults, a typical dose can be from 5 to 60 milligrams (mg), depending on the amount that ends up being most effective.
Prednisone is available as an oral tablet or liquid solution in the United States. While similar, prednisone isn’t the same as methylprednisolone, available as an injectable solution and an oral tablet. Typically, oral prednisone is used as a
If you miss a prednisone dose, you should take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next regularly scheduled dose.
You should never take an extra dose to make up for a dose that you’ve missed. To prevent an upset stomach, it’s best to take prednisone with food or milk.
Be sure and discuss with your doctor how much prednisone you will need to take after an acute asthma flare-up. It will depend on your age and the severity of your asthma.
Prednisone isn’t safe to take while pregnant. You should immediately tell your doctor if you become pregnant while taking prednisone.
Because prednisone suppresses the immune system, you may become more likely to get infections. You will want to talk with your doctor if you have an infection or recently received a vaccine.
Some medications can interact negatively with prednisone. Tell your doctor about all the medications you’re taking. You should talk with your doctor if you’re currently taking any of the
- blood thinners
- diabetes medication
- anti-tuberculosis drugs
- macrolide-type antibiotics, such as erythromycin (E.E.S.) or azithromycin (Zithromax)
- cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
- estrogen, including birth control medication
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- anticholinesterases, particularly in people with myasthenia gravis
Other anti-inflammatory drugs
Inhaled corticosteroids are very effective in limiting the amount of inflammation and mucus in the airway. They’re typically taken twice daily. They come in three forms: a metered dose inhaler, a dry powder inhaler, or a nebulizer solution.
These medications help prevent — not treat — asthma symptoms.
When taken in low doses, inhaled corticosteroids have few side effects. If you’re taking a higher dose, in rare cases, you may get a fungal infection of the mouth called thrush.
Mast cell stabilizers
These medications work by inhibiting the release of a compound called histamine by specific immune cells in your body (mast cells). They also help prevent asthma symptoms, particularly in children and people with asthma induced by exercise.
Mast cell stabilizers are typically taken two to four times daily and have few side effects. The most common side effect is dry throat.
Leukotriene modifiers are a newer type of asthma medication. They work by blocking the action of specific compounds called leukotrienes. Leukotrienes naturally occur in your body and can cause constriction of the muscles of the airway.
These pills can be taken one to four times per day. The most common side effects are headache and nausea.
Learn more on how to treat severe asthma.
Prednisone is a corticosteroid that’s typically given for acute cases of asthma. It helps reduce the inflammation in the airways in people who are experiencing an asthma attack.
Prednisone has been found to be effective at reducing the recurrence of acute asthma symptoms following a visit to the emergency room or hospital.
Many of the adverse side effects associated with prednisone occur during long-term use.
Prednisone can interact with several other types of medications. It’s very important to tell your doctor all other medications you’re taking before starting on prednisone.