Prednisone is an ‘add-on’ treatment that your healthcare practitioner might give you as a short course (usually 5 days) if you are having a severe asthma flare-up (attack).

Prednisone comes in a tablet form and contains a medicine called a corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are not the same as steroids used by body builders. There is a huge amount of research which shows that corticosteroids are effective and safe when used in single, short courses.

Prednisone works slowly over several hours to reverse the inflammation of your airways. It is best taken with food (to avoid irritating your stomach) and first thing in the morning (to avoid disrupting your sleep).

If you need to take prednisone more than twice a year, then your asthma is not well-controlled. You should ask your healthcare practitioner to review your medicine and asthma action plan and check your inhaler technique. You may be referred to a respiratory specialist service for further assessment.

A very small number of people may need to use prednisone for long-term treatment of severe asthma. Many of these people may be eligible to use biologic treatments instead. Read more.

Side effects

Side effects are less likely from a short course of prednisone, but they can include:

  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood change (usually a high mood)
  • Fluid retention (unusual)

For those taking longer-term, frequent or high-dose prednisone, the following side effects are possible:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease
  • Thinning of bones or osteoporosis

If you are concerned about side effects, discuss these with your healthcare practitioner. If you have been using prednisone regularly over a long period of time (months or years), you should not stop taking this medication suddenly. You will need to stop gradually with supervision from your healthcare practitioner.