Complete Guide to Advair Diskus for COPD

Learn how Advair can help your COPD symptoms

The human respiratory system.
The human respiratory system. PIXOLOGICSTUDIO/Getty Images

Advair is a prescription drug that you inhale. It's intended to be taken regularly to treat COPD with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. It's also used to treat asthma.

If your doctor has prescribed Advair for you, you'll need to take it regularly — usually twice a day — for it to be effective.

Advair isn't intended to be a "rescue medication" that stops breathing problems once they start. Instead, it's intended to be what's called a "maintenance" medication, which prevents bad symptoms from starting in the first place. Taking extra doses of Advair won't improve your breathing, and actually, can harm you.

Advair for COPD: The Details

Advair's full name is Advair Discus. It comes as a dry powder inhaler in several different strengths, depending on what country you live in. Advair 250/50 is the most commonly prescribed strength of the medication.

Advair contains a combination of two different drugs:

  • Flovent (generic name fluticasone propionate), which is a corticosteroid that improves your COPD symptoms by reducing inflammation and swelling in your airways
  • Salmeterol (also known as Serevent), which is a long-lasting drug called a beta-agonist that helps to relax and widen your airways

Both of these drugs make it easier for you to breathe, but they work in different ways, making the combination more effective. Advair actually improves your lung function, lessening your symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness and chronic cough.

Important Advair Safety Warnings

If you have asthma, studies have shown that you have an increased risk of death from asthma complications when you're taking salmeterol, which is one of the active ingredients in Advair. If you find you're having more trouble breathing after you start taking Advair regularly, you should talk to your doctor about it. She may decide to change your medications.

In addition, if you find your breathing problems worsening quickly (and if your rescue inhaler doesn't help), you should go to the emergency room immediately. Make sure to tell the clinicians there which drugs you're taking (including any over-the-counter drugs) to treat your condition.

People with severe milk protein allergy shouldn't use Advair since the medication contains lactose and milk protein. Inhaling something to which you're allergic can result in a bad reaction.

Taking more Advair than prescribed won't help your breathing, and overdosing on the medication could lead to serious symptoms such as shakiness, chest pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, weakness, headaches, nausea and vomiting and even seizures.

Some people develop these symptoms even when they're taking the correct dosage of their medication. If this happens to you, contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

In addition, you shouldn't take other similar drugs while taking Advair. Make sure to tell your doctor about any medications you take, even if they're over-the-counter drugs, to avoid problems with drug interactions.

Common Side Effects of Advair

People who use Advair risk developing throat irritation, hoarseness, voice changes, lung infections, headaches and bone and muscle pain. Talk to your doctor if these side effects become troublesome.

In addition, many people develop thrush, which is a yeast infection in your mouth and/or throat. Thrush causes a white or yellowish coating, so you may see it if it develops. To avoid this problem, rinse your mouth with water but don't swallow the water every time after you use your inhaler. However, even the most diligent rinsing doesn't always prevent thrush. If you wind up with it, don't worry — your doctor can prescribe a mouthwash that should take care of it.

People using Advair for COPD may develop a weakened immune system and an increased risk of infection. That's because corticosteroids (one of the two active ingredients in the medication) tend to suppress your immune system. To stay well, you should avoid being exposed to chickenpox and measles, and if you know you've been exposed, you should contact your doctor as soon as you can. If you have an existing infection, such as tuberculosis, you may find it gets worse.

Advair also may raise your risk of pneumonia, which is already high because you have COPD. If you develop pneumonia symptoms, which include increased mucus, fever, chills, or worsening breathing problems, call your doctor immediately.

In addition, people taking Advair are at risk for weakened bones. If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, talk to your doctor about your risks.

Finally, regular eye exams are recommended while you're using Advair since the medication raises your risk of glaucoma and cataracts.

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