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Inhaled Steroids : Uses, Benefits, Cost, Side Effects and Long Term Effects of Inhaled Steroids

What are Inhaled Steroids?

Also known as corticosteroids, inhaled steroids are the medications, which are used via inhalation for respiratory conditions and to reduce inflammation in the lungs.(1) Inhaled steroids are commonly used for treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).(1)

What are Inhaled Steroids?

These steroids are actually hormones, which are naturally produced in the body. They are different from the anabolic steroids that some people use for building muscle.

Using Inhaled Steroids

Inhalers must be used according to the doctor’s advice and should be stopped as per doctor’s instructions.

Inhaled steroids are usually prescribed for long-term treatment and to help asthma attacks in the future by keeping the lungs relaxed and healthy. Oral steroids can also be sometimes given with inhaled steroids.

There are also combination inhalers that are used by people suffering from asthma. Combination inhalers contain bronchodilators and steroids which help in relaxation of the airway muscles and allow the breathing process to be easy.(2)

What are the Benefits of Inhaled Steroids?

Inhaled steroids are beneficial in decreasing the inflammation in the lungs, which in turn allows you to breathe easier.(1) They also can help in decreasing the mucus production.

The results or the benefits of the inhaled steroids can take some weeks to show. The inhaled steroids help in preventing future attacks of asthma and cannot be used for treating asthma attacks as they happen. The longer is the steroids use, the more benefits you will get and the lesser the patient has to depend on the rescue inhaler. Inhaled steroids are also beneficial in treatment of various respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

What are the Side Effects of Inhaled Steroids?

Inhaled steroids side effects are usually mild and the benefits of the steroids in most cases outweigh the possible side effects. Some of the common side effects of inhaled steroids are: Cough, hoarseness, oral thrush and sore throat.

Research from 2015 has shown that there can occur stunted growth in children due to inhaled steroids; however, there is no clear evidence for this yet.(3) Generally, there are very less side effects of inhaled steroids as the medicine directly goes into the lungs.

Long term use of inhaled steroids or taking a high dose of them can cause increase in appetite and resulting weight gain in some people. Taking inhaled steroids for a long period of time also can increase the risk for developing pneumonia.(4)

How To Use An Inhaled Steroid?

Using inhaled steroids is quite simple, and you doctor or any other medical professional can help you in explaining the correct technique.

For using inhaled steroids, the patient has to put the inhaler in the mouth and slowly inhale while pressing on the canister that is attached to the inhaler. Doing this will release the medicine into the lungs.

Using the inhaled steroid will help in preventing asthma symptoms and also helps in prevention on recurrence of asthma symptoms.

According to your doctor’s instructions a spacer device with a metered dose should be used.(6)

It is important use your inhaled steroids daily as instructed by the doctor even if there are no asthma symptoms.

It is important to rinse your mouth immediately with water after the use of inhaler to prevent oral thrush.(6) If there is development of oral thrush then consult your doctor immediately.

If the same dose of steroids is not needed then consult your doctor about adjusting the dose. Do not decrease the dose on your own and it is important to taper the steroids gradually.

What is the Cost of Inhaled Steroids?

The price of inhaled steroids differs every year and mostly depends on the insurance. The out-of-pocket cost of inhaled steroid can vary from around $200 to $400. You have to see if the insurance covers the use of inhaled steroids. One can also enroll in a patient assistance program given by pharmaceutical company or nonprofit organization if any help is needed for paying for asthma medications.

What are the Long Term Effects of Inhaled Steroids?

Long term use of inhaled steroids can increase the risk of pneumonia and also cause changes in the levels of some stress hormones in the body.(5) Other than this, persistent use of inhaled corticosteroids can cause some weakening of the bones and also increase the risk of lung infections.(5) There is also the risk of increased blood sugar levels in people suffering from diabetes and slow growth in children.(5) However, these long term effects of inhaled steroids are only seen when people take very high dosages and is more common with inhalers which have fluticasone.(6)


Inhaled steroids are commonly prescribed by the doctors for patients suffering with respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD. Inhaled steroids are beneficial in cutting down the number of asthma attacks and hospital visits related with asthma. Inhaled steroids when used in the right manner are relatively safe and with very less side effects, which are treatable and tolerable. Inhaled steroids are also beneficial in providing long-term relief. For long terms effects of inhaled steroids, patient should consult with their doctor and manage the effects according to the doctor’s instructions.


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2022

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