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Inhaled Corticosteroids for Asthma Control

Inhaled corticosteroids are often advised for long-term asthma control. These medicines are safe for long-term use. They are not the steroids that you hear about athletes abusing. The normal prescribed doses of corticosteroids don’t often cause side effects. That’s because they’re inhaled right into your lungs, where they’re needed. So they have little effect on the rest of your body. The chance of side effects can be even lower if you:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about using a spacer or holding chamber with your inhaler. These devices help the medicine get to your lungs more easily.

  • Rinse your mouth and spit out the water after using the steroid inhaler. This simple step will help prevent some side effects.

  • Work with your provider to find the lowest dose to control your asthma.

  • Show your provider how you use your inhaler. This is to make sure you are using it correctly. 

How to use your inhaler

  1. If this is the first time you are using the inhaler, you need to prime it. That means making sure it is ready to use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Prime the inhaler in the air away from your face.

  2. Make sure you are standing up or sitting up straight in a chair. Remove the cap and shake well.

  3. Empty your lungs completely by taking a deep breath in and tilting your head back slightly and blowing air out.

  4. For the closed-mouth method, put the inhaler mouthpiece in your mouth, past your teeth and above your tongue. Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece to create a tight seal so the medicine doesn’t spray in your eyes. Or, for the open-mouth method, hold the inhaler up to your mouth, with the mouthpiece 2 finger-widths away from your lips. Make sure you know how your healthcare provider wants you to hold your inhaler or refer to the package insert of the device. Always keep your inhaler at chin level.

  5. Press down on the canister 1 time to release the medicine. At the same time, breathe in deeply and slowly for 3 to 5 seconds.

  6. Remove the mouthpiece from your mouth if you are using the closed-mouth method. Or, move it away from your mouth if you are using the open-mouth method. Then, close your lips.

  7. Hold your breath for up to 10 seconds if you can. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth.

  8. Repeat these steps for each puff of medicine. Wait at least 15 seconds to 1 minute before taking the next puff, or as long as directed by your healthcare provider.

  9. If you’re using a steroid inhaler, rinse and gargle your mouth with water to prevent thrush, a fungal infection. Spit the water out. Don’t swallow the water. Clean your inhaler after every use or at least once a week or as directed by the manufacturer of the device.

Medicines and your Asthma Action Plan

Medicines play a key role in controlling your asthma. It’s important to use them the right way. Use your Asthma Action Plan as your guide and keep additional notes if you have new or worsening symptoms. Write down what you were doing when the symptoms occurred. Bring the Asthma Action Plan and your notes with you to every appointment. Then you can review and update it with your healthcare provider. And don’t stop taking your asthma medicine if you feel better. If you have any questions, ask your provider or pharmacist.

If you don't have an Asthma Action Plan, contact your healthcare right away. Asthma Action Plans should be updated every year, and every time your asthma treatment changes. Refer to your Asthma Action Plan during flare-ups or if your symptoms get worse.

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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