Community Pediatric Asthma Service

Pills

Oral Steroids

Sometimes asthma flare-ups cannot be controlled with your inhaled corticosteroid medicine and you may be prescribed an add-on corticosteroid therapy in a pill or liquid form, often taken for 3-5 days. 

  • "Add-on" implies, these oral medicines are taken in addition to your regular inhaled corticosteroids.
  • Some common names for oral corticosteroids for asthma are Prednisone, Pediapred or Decadron/ Dexamethasone. (See Medicine Tips for Parents below.)

Oral steroids can...

usually get asthma under control quickly, allowing you to start feeling well sooner. Once the flare-up is controlled, you can return to your regular treatment of inhaled corticosteroid medications. Oral corticosteroids are not usually taken on a regular basis, but are reserved to treat severe asthma flare-ups.

  • Oral corticosteroid medications are safe and effective when taken for short periods of time
  • Side effects of oral corticosteroids are not usually seen if you are taking a typical 3 to 5 day course of the medicine
  • You may notice some mood changes or increased appetite, but these disappear when the medication is stopped
  • Prolonged use of oral corticosteroids may cause side effects such as weight gain, skin thinning or bruising, osteoporosis, delayed growth and glaucoma
  • If you have taken the equivalent of 3 weeks of oral steroids in a year, it is time to discuss the long-term side effects of oral steroids with your doctor.  A review of your regular maintenance medication for asthma would also be helpful

Medicine Tips for Parents

Oral corticosteroid pills and liquid medicine have a bitter taste. Kids describe them as "yucky."

  • Tablets - If they are old enough to swallow them, tablets seem to be less disliked by children. A tablet in a spoonful of jam (or chocolate syrup) helps to go down well. While a tablet seems to be the easier medicine to take, it is not always the first to be prescribed in a hospital setting. Ask your doctor if it is available and appropriate
  • Liquids - Liquid corticosteroids have a tendency to cause some children to vomit. Dexamethasone is commonly prescribed in hospital. If your child vomits within 30 minutes of taking liquid corticosteroid medication, it has not had a chance to be absorbed by the body and the dose must be repeated. If the liquid corticosteroid is repeatedly vomited, talk to your doctor about the alternatives

Walk | Run | Play | Breathe
Material on this website has been designed for information purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.