There are also common asthma “triggers” which can be avoided to help control symptoms2:
Not every type of asthma is the same. With new, targeted treatment options available, even people living with severe asthma deserve to be free from frequent or severe symptoms. Reliance on OCS, either in frequent short bursts or for longer periods of time, can be a sign of poor control and should be discussed with your doctor.
Oral corticosteroids are important medicines that are often used to treat asthma flares by reducing inflammation and swelling in the airways quickly.3 OCS should not be confused with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) delivered by an inhaler, which are often used to treat asthma.1 Your doctor may use OCS in combination with short-acting beta agonists (also called bronchodilators or quick-relief/rescue inhalers), such as albuterol, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA), or a combination of a long-acting beta agonist (LABA) and an ICS (which are both also called maintenance medications), such as tiotropium or fluticasone propionate/salmeterol.
If you have asthma, or care for someone with asthma, and might think or want to know if it is uncontrolled, download and complete this checklist before your next doctor visit. Having this conversation may help make sure the right treatment plan is in place. Speak to your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan.
If you or your loved one has seen more than one healthcare professional for uncontrolled or severe asthma, be sure to tell your doctors about that too.
It is very important that you stay on your treatment plan and follow up with your doctor about any questions you have.
Ask yourself whether you or your loved one4-7:
There are both short- and long-term risks of OCS overexposure.1
While OCS can be an important tool in managing asthma in certain cases, their use should always be carefully monitored by an asthma specialist or a primary care provider with expertise in asthma.
*OCS should not be confused with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).1
OCS overexposure can happen for a number of reasons. Ideally, a person living with asthma is seen by a primary care provider with expertise in asthma or an asthma specialist if their asthma is uncontrolled or severe. However, people often rely on other healthcare providers; instead, people may visit pharmacies, urgent care or the emergency room to manage their condition, especially if they aren’t feeling well and need to be seen right away. This can lead to several “bursts” of OCS in a relatively short period of time, because only the immediate need is treated. People may feel “well” between episodes where OCS were used, but that does not mean that their asthma is under control. Whether your condition is being managed by a primary care doctor or an asthma specialist, it is important to let your doctor know if you have received care or medication from another medical professional.
Many patients and healthcare professionals have also come to rely on treatment with OCS because OCS work quickly and are very effective. Think about it like antibiotics. Years ago, doctors rarely prescribed antibiotics, but over time, it became common for people to demand an antibiotic every time they were sick. Eventually, people began to build a resistance to antibiotics, and the antibiotics did not work as well when the medicines were actually needed.8 A similar trend is happening with OCS, but rather than building up a resistance, there are actually serious short- and long-term risks associated with using OCS repeatedly.1 In addition to health risks, people with high OCS use have roughly twice the yearly annual healthcare costs compared to people with low OCS use.9
Today, OCS use has become a sign that an updated treatment plan may be needed. There are new treatment options that target certain types of severe or difficult-to-control asthma in ways never before possible, reducing the need for OCS.
A survey of people with asthma by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) found that nearly 85 percent of respondents used at least one course of OCS in the previous 12 months and 64 percent had done so two or more times.10 Taking two or more courses of OCS in a 12-month span may mean they have severe or poorly controlled asthma and should speak with a primary care provider with expertise in asthma or a qualified asthma specialist. Download the full survey results here.
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