Oral Corticosteroids: Care Instructions

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Oral corticosteroids are commonly used medicines. They help calm down the body's response to inflammation. Oral means that they are taken by mouth. This is most often in the form of a pill.

They are used for treating many conditions. You may take them for asthma, COPD, back pain, or allergic reactions. They are also used for other conditions such as autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer. You may have side effects from taking this medicine. These include nausea, headache, dizziness, and anxiety. Pregnant women should not take this medicine unless their doctor tells them to.

Follow your doctor's instructions on how to take this medicine. If you are taking it for 2 weeks or more, your doctor may give you special instructions to slowly reduce (taper) the amount you take. Slowly cutting down on the medicine over time helps your body adjust to the change.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Take your medicine after a meal. It may cause nausea if you take it on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) while you are taking oral corticosteroids. Taking both of these medicines might cause an upset stomach. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for how to stop taking this medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your symptoms are getting worse.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • You have stomach pain that is getting worse.
  • Your stools are black.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.