Inhalers and side effects: I have a... - British Lung Foun...

British Lung Foundation
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Inhalers and side effects


I have a question l hope someone help me put my mind at ease someone told me that inhalers can cause mouth cancer l have copd mild and take advair twice a day l use it properly and rinse my mouth right after and also l drink a glass of water she thinks l am crazy for taking the inhalers and maybe l just have allergies l told her l had the proper testing done and my doctor doesn't perscribed if not needed some people are so ignorant and should mind there own business they don't even know what copd is and the seriousness about the diease thanks for reading talk soon

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29 Replies

That will be first av heard YUP smoking drinking beer and to many hot currys can over time

Only thing ad say do is give you shakes maily blue inhaler when get tad excited over use it

And steriode one's well will give you thrush of the mouth ..

Theres people been on inhalers a life time for asthma

And av not read that one ad defo remmber that

Cheers try not to worry about what people say

Petar28 in reply to Hidden

Thanks for the replie that puts me at ease take care

Hidden in reply to Petar28


Ive never heard that either Petar. Reason for rinsing as you probably know and as Daz says is to avoid thrush - I've never heard that mouth cancer was a side effect. You can check all the possible side effects by reading the patient leaflet in your medication package.

Petar28 in reply to O2Trees

Thank you for your reply puts my mind at ease talk soon


Chapter 44: What are the side effects of the inhaled steroids if used for many years?

When steroid tablets are taken for many months or years, harmful side effects are likely and almost inevitable. The list of possible effects is long; it includes mood changes, forgetfulness, hair loss, easy bruising, a tendency toward high blood pressure and diabetes, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), suppression of the adrenal glands, muscle weakness, weight gain, cataracts, and glaucoma. After being swallowed, these tablets are absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream and taken not only to the bronchial tubes (to treat asthma) but also to every other part of the body. Their effects are widespread.

On the other hand, only miniscule amounts of steroid medication enter the bloodstream after inhaling it. The reasons for this difference include the following. First, steroids used for inhalational treatment of asthma are designed not cross well from the surface of the bronchial tubes into the bloodstream. Somewhat like applying a steroid cream to the skin, they are poorly absorbed from the surface into the blood. Second, only very small amounts of steroid medication are delivered from the inhalers with each dose or "puff." Less medicine is needed when it can be directly applied to the affected area. We measure the amounts of steroids inhaled in micrograms, which are units one thousand times smaller than the milligrams by which we measure prednisone or Medrol® tablets.

When breathed in, some steroid medicine remains in the mouth and can be swallowed into the stomach and from there absorbed into the bloodstream. You can minimize any effect from steroids left behind in your mouth in two ways. First, use a spacer tube with your steroid spray. (A spacer can not be used with budesonide [Pulmicort®] dry powder inhaler.) Medicine that would otherwise land on your tongue and mouth stays in the spacer chamber. The part of the spray that passes through the spacer also tends to pass through your mouth and proceed down onto the bronchial tubes. Second, rinse your mouth with water after inhaling the steroid spray. Rinsing removes any medicine residue from your mouth. The portion of the medicine that helps your asthma remains undisturbed on your bronchial tubes.

So much for the theory; what about the actual experience with steroids in inhaled form? The current generation of steroid inhalers first began to be used in the mid 1960s. For more than three decades they have been prescribed for millions of people with asthma and other lung diseases worldwide. No serious long-term adverse effects have emerged. For adults, given in the usual doses, they do not cause degeneration (atrophy) of the normal tissues of the respiratory passageway. They do not predispose to lung infections. They do not cause cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

We need to look more carefully at the two phrases used above: "for adults" and "in the usual doses." Children's bones may be sensitive to the very small amounts of steroids that can enter the bloodstream after inhalation. There is currently debate — and considerable on-going research — to determine whether in children inhaled steroids might slow bone growth and reduce a child's ultimate height.

Also, when given in very large doses (many puffs from a high-concentration steroid inhaler), the amount of steroid medicine that spills over into the bloodstream can become significant. Although the effect is small, like a very small dose of prednisone, over the years this small effect can potentially add up to serious harmful effects. High doses of inhaled steroids taken for a long time can probably predispose to cataracts, glaucoma, and thinning of the skin and bones. As a result, your doctor will probably only have you take high doses of inhaled steroids as a means to avoid steroid tablets. And he/she will constantly work with you to attempt to reduce the dose of inhaled steroids to a more conventional and safer range.

Remember that not taking inhaled steroids for fear of side effects may have real consequences that are far worse than potential effects in the future; namely, asthma symptoms and risk of asthma attacks now. Severe asthma attacks are usually treated with steroid tablets, which all agree have the worst side effects.

Tetrazzini in reply to Offcut

What a brilliant reply. Thank you for such an informative article.

Offcut in reply to Tetrazzini

I try to steer clear of the "hearsay" articles But one thing I do have is time. Plus the thirst for knowledge.

Be Well

whit in reply to Offcut

where did you find all that info?

Offcut in reply to whit

This is were my bad habits come in. I have folders I store things in on my PC but I often forget to bookmark it. I look to medical sites rather than highlight info.

I have always been able to find things on the internet that others do not for some reason. Might be the way I ask or my dyslexia helps. (reading is not my problem)

I just finished a course on Heart conditions for beginners as I also have a few of them and it was a fascinating experience. Even to the dissection of a lambs heart, which was messy but shows the wonders of natures logic.

nanaber in reply to Offcut

That was a very good explanation of side effects with in inhaled steroids thank you

Hidden in reply to Offcut

excellent offcut - that is so informative - thank you :)

Daisy77 in reply to Offcut

Thank you for a very informative response. Much appreciated.

helingmic in reply to Offcut

Wow, Now that is a full report that is very reassuring to me. Thank you f or this research Offcut.

What a load of tosh!

Have no fear, the risks taking an inhaler are little compared to the risks of not taking.

The last paragraph of Offcut's reply says it all.

You are doing everything right, a good rinse and gargle (I do two for good measure)! Plus coming on here for best advice, well done you :)

You have mild copd, therefore you won't be on high dose steroid ones. Long may that remain so, as long as you take your medication regularly, avoid infections, avoid pollution/chemical fumes/smoke/cig smoke, eat well, go to doc at first sign of anything chesty and do plenty of exercise you will be well.

good luck. P

Cor Blimey, as the English say ! , - this is an old chestnut ! , heard this one years ago, I well remember a Daily Newspaper giving a list of FORTY SEVEN types of food that the so called "Experts " blamed for causing Cancer ! ,- starting with Bacon , at the end of the article, the writer said, "There is'nt much left to eat, if these "Experts " are to be believed , we might as well all lie down an die now " !! , Oh , and the last food listed was - wait for it folks = PEAS !! , - carry on with your inhalers Petar28 - good luck, and enjoy life ! ....

What a load of rubbish! You should tell your "someone" to not say anything until they know what they're talking about! There's nothing worse than these people who think they know -it-all and come out with all this nonsense! Just do what you're doing, there's no danger whatsoever. If there were, there would be no one on this site - we'd all be dead! Lol

Hidden in reply to Nikkers

A think theres loads good bits in all the comments

All good'ens and brightend my day up know end

Yup yep the might all be true over time but the part of lifes disease trade off's as many of us av said over time

Yep like my lung doc say's have to keep everything in perspective ..

Aftter all you could go from here and get hit by a bus

so whats the point worrying when we can enjoy so much of things


I think your someone is not a good friend - avoid at all costs methinks.

The someone was probably a Daily Fail reader - according to them everything causes cancer! Relax, you'd be in a worse mess without them. When treated to these little pearls of wisdom, I have learned to say: "And your source is..................?"

Offcut in reply to Dragonmum


helingmic in reply to Dragonmum

Dragon mum, I think that's cute and shrewd!


you can get cancer from breathing !!!!! keep taking the inhalers

When using an inhaler, yes always rinse your mouht, however do not swallow the water waite for at least 5 to 10 minutes to drink water....Also inhalers tend to make changes in your voice....some even can cause laryngitis.....I have found natural homeopathic solution for this....get 100% organo oil herbal supplemnt..... use a eyedropper about 4 to 5 drops in a shot glass of water, even gargle if you wish and swallow....i warn you it does burn! but it works If voice change, cough and spitum is involved.... works magic with my throat. i have told my primary Dr and others about it and they are now telling their.... patients...Most of the time COPD starts mildly then as one gets older is progresses and may force you to change medications....All depends if you smoked , how long, how much etc....


Petar28 in reply to LVPETITE

Thanks for the info we will talk soon thanks so much

hey, Petar, Welcome to our site. Geeh! She is a worrier and tries to worry you. I told my wife, who is a worrrier too, that I was going to do interval training. She jumped and told me I was too frail to do this and it is so dangerous for me to do this ...

Take a pinch of salt. Youare doing the right thing. sometimes, an inhaler can cause a thrush. YOu would know it as you would feel a sore throat. But with an antifungal this can be easily cured. Personally, I have never heard anyone getting cancer from an inhaler. I haven't read any studies to that effect. The effect of the inhaled drug is so beneficial. I doubt doctors would prescribe it, if it were so dangerous.

Take it with a pinch of salt and do as you do, rinse your mouth after, you should be alright. You could always ask about it to your doctor. Cheers, Mic

Petar28 in reply to helingmic

Thanks for the reply l feel better know we will talk soon

helingmic in reply to Petar28

There you are, I knew you were going to breathe more freely. Trust yourself!

I have been a respiratory therapist for many years....both teaching people how to use them and talking with many who do use them. In addition, I have used them for,many years for my asthma. I have never heard that.

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