Logo for Signhealth, the deaf charity

Search the site

The most effective way of taking most asthma treatments is to inhale the medicine by using your inhaler so it gets straight into your lungs. Most preventer treatments contain steroids and taking them by inhaler means that a much lower dose of the steroid can be used.

Because the inhaled medicine goes straight down to the airways where it is needed, very little is absorbed into the rest of the body.

When steroids are taken in tablet form the dose is much higher and most of it will be absorbed into the rest of the body, not just your lungs. Using steroid tablets regularly or for long periods of time (months or years) can have serious side effects including brittle bones (osteoporosis), bruising easily, diabetes, cataracts, increased hunger, heartburn and indigestion. They may make you feel depressed, or have mood swings or develop a fattened face.

A small number of people need daily steroid tablets as well as their other inhalers.


  • occasional short courses of tablets (anything from 3-14 days) are very unlikely to give you any long-term side effects
  • if you do not take your inhaler as often as your doctor or asthma nurse has prescribed you will be more likely to need steroid tablets
  • if you find you need more than one or two short courses of tablets a year you should have an asthma review with your doctor or asthma nurse.

These videos about asthma and living with it were made by Asthma UK.

For more information on asthma, visit asthma.org.uk