Cromolyn Sodium - Inhalation

What Is Cromolyn Sodium - Inhalation?

Cromolyn sodium is an inhaled medication used to prevent asthma attacks. It is used to manage long-term asthma and exercise-induced asthma.

Cromolyn belongs to a class of medications called mast cell stabilizers. It prevents immune cells called mast cells from releasing inflammation-causing substances induced by allergen exposure or exercise.

Cromolyn sodium was previously available under the brand name Intal, which has been discontinued. However, it is still available as a generic medication as an inhalation solution.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Cromolyn sodium

Brand Name: Intal (discontinued; only available as a generic)

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Inhalation

Therapeutic Classification: Mast cell stabilizer

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Cromolyn sodium

Dosage Form: Solution for inhalation

What Is Cromolyn Sodium Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cromolyn sodium for preventing bronchial asthma attacks in those whose symptoms are frequent enough to require continuous medication. It is also approved to prevent exercise or environmentally-triggered asthma.

How to Take Cromolyn Sodium

Use this medicine exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. Follow all the directions on your medicine label. Do not use more or less of this medicine or use it for longer than prescribed.

Cromolyn sodium should be used in a nebulizer device as follows:

  • Check the solution to make sure it is clear and colorless. Do not use it if it is discolored or contains any particles.
  • Break open the ampule (the sealed glass containing the solution) and empty the medicine into the chamber of the nebulizer. Attach the mouthpiece or face mask, then attach the drug chamber to the compressor.
  • Sit upright in a comfortable position. Place the mouthpiece into your mouth or put on the face mask, covering your nose and mouth. Turn on the compressor.
  • Breathe in slowly and evenly until the nebulizer forms no more mist and the drug chamber is empty.
  • Clean the nebulizer after each use. Follow the cleaning directions that come with your nebulizer.

Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for help if you do not understand how to take your medication.

Storage

Keep the ampules in the foil pouch until ready for use. Store at room temperature of 68 F to 77 F. Protect the medication from light and keep it out of the reach of children.

When traveling, transport cromolyn sodium in your luggage with its original prescription label.

How Long Does Cromolyn Sodium Take to Work?

It may take several weeks of treatment before your symptoms improve significantly, although some individuals show an almost immediate response. Keep using the medication as directed, and tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not improve after four weeks.

What Are the Side Effects of Cromolyn Sodium?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Side effects related to cromolyn sodium are relatively uncommon. However, when they do occur, side effects can include:

Severe Side Effects

Notify your healthcare provider right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 immediately if your symptoms feel life-threatening or you think you or someone else is having a medical emergency. Serious side effects can include the following:

Report Side Effects

Cromolyn sodium may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Cromolyn Sodium Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For inhalation aerosol dosage form:
    • For prevention of asthma symptoms:
      • Adults and children 5 years of age or older—2 inhalations (puffs) taken four times a day with doses spaced four to six hours apart.
      • Children up to 5 years of age—Cromolyn inhalation aerosol should not be used in children younger than 5 years of age.
    • For prevention of bronchospasm caused by exercise or a condition or substance:
      • Adults and children 5 years of age or older—2 inhalations (puffs) taken at least ten to fifteen (but not more than sixty) minutes before exercise or exposure to any condition or substance that may cause an attack.
      • Children up to 5 years of age—Cromolyn inhalation aerosol should not be used in children younger than 5 years of age.
  • For capsule for inhalation dosage form:
    • For prevention of asthma symptoms:
      • Adults and children 2 years of age or older—20 mg (contents of 1 capsule) used in an inhaler, taken four times a day with doses spaced four to six hours apart.
      • Children up to 2 years of age—The capsule for inhalation should not be used in children younger than 2 years of age.
    • For prevention of bronchospasm caused by exercise or a condition or substance:
      • Adults and children 2 years of age or older—20 mg (contents of 1 capsule) used in an inhaler, taken at least ten to fifteen (but not more than sixty) minutes before exercise or exposure to any condition or substance that may cause an attack.
      • Children up to 2 years of age—The capsule for inhalation should not be used in children younger than 2 years of age.
  • For inhalation solution dosage form:
    • For prevention of asthma symptoms:
      • Adults and children 2 years of age or older—20 mg (contents of 1 ampul) used in a nebulizer. This medicine should be used four times a day with doses spaced four to six hours apart. Use a new ampul of solution for each dose.
      • Children up to 2 years of age—Cromolyn inhalation solution should not be used in children younger than 2 years of age.
    • For prevention of bronchospasm caused by exercise or a condition or substance:
      • Adults and children 2 years of age or older—20 mg (contents of 1 ampul) used in a nebulizer. This medicine should be used at least ten to fifteen (but not more than sixty) minutes before exercise or exposure to any condition or substance that may cause an attack. Use a new ampul of solution for each dose.
      • Children up to 2 years of age—Cromolyn inhalation solution should not be used in children younger than 2 years of age.

Modifications

There are no reported requirements for dosage changes while using cromolyn sodium.

Pregnancy

Cromolyn sodium may be used during pregnancy. There is no known risk to the fetus. Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine.

Breastfeeding

You may use this medicine while breastfeeding. It is not expected to harm the infant based on minimal passage into breast milk. There is no data on its effects on milk production. Tell your healthcare provider if you are nursing a baby.

Use in Children

Cromolyn sodium inhalation is not approved for use by anyone younger than 2 years old.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose of this medication, use it as soon as you remember. You can skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Resume the medication at your next scheduled time. Do not take extra to make up for the missed dose. Call your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you are unsure of what to do.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Cromolyn Sodium?

An overdosage of inhaled cromolyn sodium is not likely. Toxicity only occurs with very high drug levels, regardless of administration route (e.g., oral, inhalation). However, this is not expected to occur with use, even in long-term treatment.

What Happens If I Overdose on Cromolyn Sodium?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on cromolyn sodium, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking cromolyn sodium, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

If your symptoms do not improve within 4 weeks or if your condition becomes worse after you begin using cromolyn, check with your doctor.

If you are also taking a corticosteroid or a bronchodilator for your asthma along with this medicine, do not stop taking the corticosteroid or bronchodilator even if your asthma seems better, unless you are told to do so by your doctor.

Dryness of the mouth or throat or throat irritation may occur after you use this medicine. Gargling and rinsing your mouth or taking a drink of water after each dose may help prevent these effects.

What Are the Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Cromolyn Sodium?

Avoid taking cromolyn sodium if you are allergic to it or any of its components.

What Other Medications Interact With Cromolyn Sodium?

Before starting cromolyn sodium, tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you take or plan to take, including over-the-counter (OTC) nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, supplements, and plant-based medicines.

Methacholine (inhaled) is a drug used to help your healthcare provider diagnose asthma. It works by narrowing your bronchial airways. Cromolyn sodium has the opposite effect on the body. Therefore, if used in combination with cromolyn sodium, it may interfere with test results.

Talk with your pharmacist or healthcare provider for more detailed information about medication interactions with cromolyn sodium.

What Medications Are Similar?

Medications similar to cromolyn sodium include:

Tiotropium

Tiotropium is a non-steroid medicine used to prevent asthma attacks. It works by blocking acetylcholine receptors, which in turn opens up the lung airways. It is approved for adults and children over age 6. However, Cromolyn sodium has a better safety profile and is approved for use in children as young as 2.

Tiotropium inhalation aerosol is a cartridge inserted into a special inhaler device (Spiriva Respimat). Turning the base of the Respimat device until it clicks will release the medicine into the inhaler chamber. It has more drug-drug interactions than cromolyn sodium. People who are taking cromolyn sodium in addition to Spiriva and have good asthma control may be able to decrease their use of cromolyn sodium gradually.

Fluticasone Propionate and Salmeterol

Fluticasone propionate and salmeterol are used to prevent asthma attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) flare-ups. It is a combination drug that contains a corticosteroid and a beta-agonist.

Fluticasone propionate decreases inflammation in the airways, while salmeterol stimulates beta-2 adrenergic receptors to relax the smooth muscle in the airways. In people with COPD, fluticasone and salmeterol are for long-term treatment. In people with asthma, this medicine is for short-term treatment until symptoms are well controlled with other treatments.

Fluticasone propionate and salmeterol are for use in adults and children who are at least 4 years old. It may not be safe to use this medicine while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Budesonide

Budesonide is used to prevent asthma attacks in children as young as 1. It works by decreasing inflammation in the airways. It is typically the drug of choice for pregnant people with persistent asthma because of the low risk of harm to the fetus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I use cromolyn sodium?

    Cromolyn sodium is supplied in a low-density polyethylene plastic unit dose ampule with 12 ampules per foil pouch. It should be used in a power-driven nebulizer with an adequate airflow rate and a suitable face mask or mouthpiece.
    To use the solution with a nebulizer:

    • Break open the ampule and empty the medicine into the chamber of the nebulizer. Attach the mouthpiece or face mask, then attach the drug chamber to the compressor.
    • Sit upright in a comfortable position. Place the mouthpiece into your mouth or put on the face mask, covering your nose and mouth. Turn on the compressor.
    • Breathe in slowly and evenly until the nebulizer forms no more mist and the drug chamber is empty.
    • Clean the nebulizer after each use. Follow the cleaning directions that come with your nebulizer.
    • Do not mix cromolyn sodium inhalation with other medicines in your nebulizer.
    • Do not swallow this medicine.
    • Do not use it if it has changed colors or has particles in it.
  • How does cromolyn sodium work?

    Cromolyn sodium stops the release of certain mediators of inflammation from mast cells which occurs after exposure to specific antigens (e.g., exercise, environmental pollutants). It indirectly blocks calcium ions from entering the mast cell, thereby preventing mediator release.

  • How long does it take for cromolyn sodium to work?

    Symptoms may improve soon after you begin using cromolyn sodium, but it can take several weeks of continued use to see the maximal effect. Therefore, keep using the medication as directed, and tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not improve after four weeks of using cromolyn sodium.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Cromolyn Sodium?

Asthma is usually treated with a combination of drugs. Therefore, it is important to take all your medication exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. Do not change your doses or medication schedule without consulting them. If you have trouble remembering to take any prescribed drugs, consider setting alarms on your phone or calendar. 

Cromolyn sodium is not a rescue medicine. It will not work fast enough to treat an asthma attack. Use only a fast-acting medicine for an asthma attack. Tell your healthcare provider if your asthma medications aren't working well enough. This medication is for ongoing asthma management and must be used regularly to be effective. Symptoms may take weeks to improve. 

Your dose may change if you have surgery, are ill, are stressed, or have recently had an asthma attack. Asthma symptoms may come back if reduced below the recommended dosage or discontinued.

As with any medication, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any questions.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Murphy S, Kelly HW. Cromolyn sodium: a review of mechanisms and clinical use in asthma. Drug Intell Clin Pharm. 1987;21(1 Pt 1):22-35. doi:10.1177/10600280870211p102

  3. MedlinePlus. Cromolyn oral inhalation.

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  5. DailyMed. Label: Spiriva Respimat- tiotropium bromide inhalation spray spray, metered.

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  8. DailyMed. Label: Budesonide inhalant.