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Steroids, Oral


What does this drug do?

Oral steroids reduce swelling, inflammation, and mucus production in the airways. They help control and prevent symptoms of asthma. Oral steroids are strong medicines that are most often used for speeding up relief of moderate to severe asthma episodes. If your child has severe asthma, an oral steroid may also be used as a long-term control medicine, also called a controller.

Although oral steroids are used for speeding up relief, they do not:

  • immediately open the airways
  • provide quick relief of wheezing or acute asthma attacks.

There are other quick-relief, reliever, or "rescue" medicines available that quickly open airways and are used to treat acute asthma attacks.

What are other names for this drug?

Some of the names for oral steroids are prednisone, prednisolone (Prelone Syrup, Pediapred Oral Solution, Orapred Syrup, Orapred ODT), and methylprednisolone (Medrol).

How is it taken?

Oral steroids can be taken as pills, chewable tablets, or syrup. The medicine has a bitter taste. Have your child swallow the pills and syrup quickly and not hold the medicine in his mouth. The chewable tablets (Orapred ODT) are flavored to decrease the bitter taste. After swallowing, quickly have your child take a drink to rinse his mouth. It is best not to take this medicine on an empty stomach.

What side effects can steroids cause?

Steroid side effects vary from person to person and depend on how much, how often, and how long the medicine is taken. The most common side effects of steroids taken orally for a short time are:

  • increased appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • headache
  • restlessness
  • mood changes

If your child takes oral steroids daily, for a long time, or at high doses, side effects can be serious. The side effects may take a long time to go away once the medicine is stopped. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

What special instructions should be followed?

Always take the prescribed amount for the length of time prescribed. Do not change the dose or stop taking the medicine without checking with your healthcare provider. Your child should not get any vaccines while taking steroids without your healthcare provider's approval.


Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-11
Last reviewed: 2010-12-13

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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