Printer Friendly

Use of steroids for asthma and allergies.


More than 41 million people suffer with asthma and allergies. Fortunately, today there are many effective medications available to treat these conditions. Steroids, or the more commonly used name, corticosteroids, are one of the medications frequently prescribed. These steroids are an anti-inflammatory drug, not to be confused with the anabolic steroids used by some athletes.


Steroids, decrease airway inflammation which produces the following desired effects in asthma patients:

- decrease the swelling in the bronchial tubes

- reduce production of mucus by the cells lining

the bronchial tubes

- decrease hyper-reactivity of the airways

- help airway smooth muscle respond to other


- prevent constriction of the bronchial tubes


When most people hear the word "steroids," they think of anabolic steroids that are abused by some athletes and body builders. These anabolic steroids help to enhance their athletic performance and physical build, but have severe side effects. Cortisone steroids (corticosteroids) are anti-inflammatory hormones. They are unrelated to the anabolic steroids or sex hormones such as androgens. On a short-term basis, corticosteroids are a safe and effective treatment for asthma and allergies with no major side effects.


Corticosteroids can by administered in a variety of ways. Topical preparations (on a specific surface area such as skin or the lining of the bronchial tubes) may be applied as creams or sprays. Orally, corticosteroids may be taken in a liquid or tablet form. They also may be administered intravenously. Corticosteroids have been used as a successful treatment for asthma and allergies since 1948.


Long-term use of steroids, particularly oral steroids, is not recommended. Specialists will prescribe oral steroids for long durations only when other treatments have failed to restore normal respiratory functions and the risks of uncontrolled asthma are greater than the side effects of the steroids.

Studies have showed long-term oral steroid use may cause serious side effects such as: ulcers, weight gain, cataracts, decreased growth in children, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, thinning of the bones, and easy bruising. Patients with questions and concerns about long-term steroid use should discuss this with their physician.


Prednisone is one of the most commonly prescribed steroid drugs for asthma and allergy patients. It is available in tablet or liquid form. Possible side effects of short-term prednisone use include slight weight gain, increased appetite, menstrual irregularities and cramps, heartburn or indigestion.


Cortisone aerosols are recommended for patients with daily, moderate or severe asthma symptoms. Five percent of the population experience minor side effects of hoarseness and thrush from using these aerosols. These common problems can be minimized with mouth-rinsing and using a spacer device which will reduce the amount of medication residue in the mouth and throat.

While these steroid sprays have few serious side effects, some patients have experienced unpleasant effects of cortisone tablet withdrawal such as loss of energy, poor appetite and severe muscle aches or joint pains. It is recommended that oral medications be tapered slowly for weeks or months to avoid these effects of withdrawal.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Academy of Allergy and Immunology
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Pamphlet by: American Academy of Allergy and Immunology
Article Type:Pamphlet
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Understanding the pollen & mold season.
Next Article:What every patient should know about asthma & allergy.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |