Benefits and Risks of Inhaled Corticosteroids

 Steroid Facts

  • Steroids are hormones that your body makes and uses every day.
  • Steroids used to treat asthma are called corticosteroids.
  • These steroids are not the same as those banned for athletes.
  • The International Olympic Committee approves the use of corticosteroids when prescribed by a doctor to treat asthma.
  • Corticosteroids can be pills, syrups, creams, or can be given by needle. Most often they are inhaled into the lungs.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are used for asthma and allergic rhinitis*. Corticosteroid creams are used to treat eczema**.
  • Oral corticosteroids (eg. Pediapred®, Prednisone®) may be needed to treat severe asthma attacks.
  • If needed, oral corticosteroids should only be used for a few days.

 * Rhinitis is inflammation in the nose.

 ** Eczema is a skin rash.


Benefits of Inhaled Corticosteroids (ICS)

  • Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) used to treat asthma are called Controller medicine.
  • For asthma, ICS work on the inside of the airways to decrease swelling and mucous.
  • ICS are usually the best medicine to control asthma long term.
  • ICS go directly to the lungs, so only small doses of steroids are needed.
  • ICS take a few days to start working. It may take a few weeks before the airway swelling is decreased.
  • If needed ICS can be used safely for years.


Risks of Inhaled Corticosteroids

  • At low doses, side effects are rare.
  • In a few children, ICS may cause a hoarse voice or yeast infection in the mouth or throat called "thrush".
  • In some children, there may be a short term effect on growth (height).
  • For most children, height is not affected by normal doses of ICS.
  • Poor asthma control will also affect growth.


Examples of Inhaled Steroids

 Fluticasone:      Budesonide:       



FloVent ®

Advair® (contains Flovent® & Serevent® )


Symbicort® (contains Pulmicort® & Oxeze® )

QVAR® Alvesco®


Instruction for Use of Inhaled Steroids for Asthma

  • It is important to know how to use your inhaler properly. Review how to use your inhaler with your doctor, asthma educator or pharmacist.
  • Using a spacer device will help to prevent thrush and allow more medicine to reach the lungs.
  • Gargle with water and spit or take a drink after inhaling the corticosteroids to prevent thrush.
  • Do not stop inhaled corticosteroids without your doctor’s advice.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Review your plan with your doctor at least twice a year.


Asthma Allie Says:

"Take your Controller medicine to keep asthma under control!"


The Children's Allergy & Asthma Education Centre © 2011