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How Effective Is Dexamethasone for Asthma?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Dexamethasone for asthma may be very effective when used to treat an acute attack. In general, asthma is treated long-term using regular inhaled therapy but in severe attacks, systemic therapy, such as oral or injectable corticosteroids like dexamethasone, may be needed in the short term. Usually, when using dexamethasone for asthma, it is done in a hospital as a severe acute asthma attack is a medical emergency. Dexamethasone may be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer.

Asthma is a disease of the lungs which causes inflammation and difficulty breathing. Its cause is not fully understood but it seems to be a genetic disorder. Acute asthma attacks may be triggered by a number of things, including pollen, dust, exercise and cold air. Working with a doctor, asthma can usually be kept under control by the use of various medications, some taken chronically, others taken only when symptoms of an asthma attack occur. It is advised that people with asthma wear a Medic Alert bracelet.

In the case of an acute, severe asthma attack, urgent medical help should be obtained. The treating doctor will institute a number of treatments including oxygen and the administration of a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, orally if possible. If the patient is unable to swallow or is vomiting, it may be given by injection. The mechanism of action of corticosteroids, like dexamethasone, is its anti-inflammatory effect on the lungs.

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When using dexamethasone for asthma in the acute setting, it is usually given at a high dose and continued for a number of days afterwards to control the symptoms. In some cases the dexamethasone dose may be tapered down slowly. The prescribed dose should never be exceeded and the course of treatment should be completed fully to ensure maximum therapeutic outcome and avoid unwanted side effects.

As with any medication, interactions may occur when using dexamethasone for asthma. Any other medication, including homeopathic, over-the-counter and complementary medicines should be discussed with the doctor. Underlying medical conditions, pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be disclosed.

In some cases, adverse effects may occur with the use of dexamethasone. While normally these only occur in patients taking the drug long-term, they may also occur in the acute setting. Adverse side effects which have been reported include psychiatric effects such as mania and gastrointestinal disturbances. Should adverse effects be severe, they should be discussed immediately with the prescribing doctor.

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