If you've noticed your asthma symptoms have been getting out of hand, your doctor may be considering putting you on steroids. And although this is a very common treatment course that can help you feel significantly better, there are some things you should know before you begin.

Asthma and Corticosteroids

There are times when some asthmatics need a little extra help getting their respiratory system to function at its best. That's when corticosteroids may do the trick. This is a relatively safe form of anti-inflammatory medication that can help control your asthma symptoms and keep your airway inflammation in check.

Chronic and Acute Asthma and Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids work by reducing the swelling in the airways and can help block your body from having an allergic response to triggers. They can be particularly helpful if you have chronic asthma that's difficult to control, or you're having a bad flare up of symptoms. They're available in several forms, including orally (as a pill or a liquid) or as an inhaled medication that can be administered through a metered-dose inhaler or can be delivered in a nebulizer mist.

Facts about Asthma and Corticosteroids

While corticosteroids can make an improvement in your health, you may be worried that they come along with side effects, gaining unwanted fat or muscle mass. First of all, it's important to understand that the steroids used to control asthma aren't the same type as those taken by some body builders to increase their muscle mass.  Further, while long-term use of the oral forms of corticosteroids can have some side effects, there are other, safer, ways to take this drug, such as through an inhaler or nebulizer, that shouldn't pose much risk.

Weighing Asthma and Corticosteroids Risks

Also know that when taken orally, corticosteroids circulate through your blood stream in order to deliver their benefits to your lungs. As a result, their usage is generally limited to a week or two at a time. If taken for longer, your body can become dependent on them, which means you can't suddenly quit but instead need to taper down the dosage so your body can adjust. If you do need to take corticosteroids for longer, you may experience side effects such as changes in your sleeping patterns, an increase in your appetite and mood swings.

Gain Control

When you take corticosteroids in inhaled form, (either through an inhaler dispenser or through a nebulizer machine), you're directing the medication right into your lungs without having it travel throughout the rest of your body. This can prevent or minimize the risk of side effects and can make it easier to get the benefits you need on a regular basis.

Just keep in mind that corticosteroids are used to control your asthma and to give your lungs an extra boost, but they can't take the place of your fast-acting relief inhaler to help you breathe in a pinch.


Allergy and Asthma Network: Mothers of Asthmatics

The Asthma Center

The Mayo Clinic

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation