Asthma Treatment Print How Long Do Steroids Stay in Your System? By Pat Bass, MD Updated June 02, 2019 Medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD barmalini/iStock/Getty Images More in Asthma Treatment Symptoms Diagnosis Triggers Living With Prevention Asthma in Children If you are taking steroids for asthma, you may wonder how long steroids stay in your system. This will vary depending on the type of drug, whether you are taking an inhaled steroid (e.g., Advair) or oral corticosteroid (e.g., prednisone), and the characteristics of each medication. Specifically, the drug's half-life will determine how long a drug circulates within your body. Understanding Half-Life A major factor in how long any drug affects your body is the drug's half-life. In very simple terms, the half-life of a drug is the time it takes for half of the drug's dosage to be eliminated from your body. For example, the half-life of rescue inhalers like albuterol is in the five- to seven-minute range, while the half-life of Advair is five to seven hours. The half-life of a drug affects several things, including how quickly you'll notice it working and how often you'll need to take it. Short Half-Life Drugs More concentrated Work faster May need to be dosed multiple times per day to keep blood levels constant Long Half-Life Drugs Slower to take effect Are actively in circulation for longer periods Longer time between doses A number of different factors can affect the half-life of a drug, including: AgeGenderHydrationLiver disease While half-life is mostly related to the properties of the drug, each body is unique, which means that how a drug is metabolized in your body may differ from how the same drug at the same dosage affects another person. Steroids Used for Asthma Oral corticosteroids, sometimes referred to as oral steroids or even by a brand name such as prednisone, are a group of powerful anti-inflammatory medications that are prescribed when you have a significant worsening of your asthma symptoms. They may be used over several days to help get your symptoms under control. Inhaled steroids, in contrast, are localized to the lungs. Their direct action reduces broader side effects, but inhaled steroids need to be used daily for best results. Half-Lives of Common Asthma Medications Class Medication Half-Life Relievers Short-acting ß2-agonists salbutamol 4 to 6 hours Anticholinergic ipratropium bromide 3 to 5 hours Methylxanthine theophylline 3 to 13 hours Controllers Glucocorticosteroids (inhaled) fluticasone 14 hours budesonide 2 to 3 hours beclomethasone 15 hours Glucocorticosteroids (oral/intravenous) prednisone 3 to 4 hours Long-acting ß2-agonists formoterol 8 to 10 hours salmeterol 5.5 hours Oral corticosteroids are systemic—meaning they reduce inflammation throughout the entire body. Inhaled steroids, on the other hand, act primarily in the lungs. What You Need to Know About Systemic Corticosteroids Side Effects of Oral Steroids It is helpful to understand the differences between oral corticosteroids and inhaled steroids. The most important differences are related to potential side effects. It's important to note that these become more pronounced when drug levels are not stable, which occurs when prescription instructions are not followed exactly as directed. The half-life of oral corticosteroids is significantly longer than inhaled steroids, and therefore oral steroids have a more significant side effect profile, including: Loss of bone density and possible osteoporosisCataractsGlaucomaHigh blood pressureElevated glucoseAggression and behavior changesIncreased appetite, fluid retention, and weight gainIncreased risk of infectionDepression It is key to mention any recent steroid bursts (the use of a short course of oral steroids) to your healthcare provider. Overuse of oral steroids may prevent your adrenal gland, where your body's natural steroids are made, from working correctly. As a result, your body may not make steroids sufficiently during a time of stress and you may require additional supplementation. Side Effects of Inhaled Steroids Inhaled steroids rarely cause these side effects, but do have local side effects that are easily prevented with appropriate steps. Side effects of inhaled steroids are rare but may include: ThrushHoarseness These symptoms may be avoided by rinsing the mouth and gargling after use of an inhaled steroid, plus utilizing a spacer device that delivers measured doses. A Word from Verywell If your doctor needs to prescribe oral corticosteroids more than once per year, your asthma control may be suboptimal and it may be time to reexamine your asthma action plan together. Patients and parents of children with asthma often have concerns about the side effects of steroids. Write down any questions and qualms before meeting with your physician or your child's pediatrician to start a discussion of what's right for you. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Sign up for our Health Tip of the Day newsletter, and receive daily tips that will help you live your healthiest life. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/guidelines/current/asthma-guidelines/full-report. Promoting Asthma Control In Children. Appendix G: Asthma Medications (Updated 2008). Toronto, Ont.: Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario; 2008. Sharma, S, Chakraborty, RK. Asthma Medications. StatPearls. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531455/. 2019. Continue Reading What Is the Difference Between Inhaled and Oral Corticosteroids? What Are the Common Inhalers and Medicines for Asthma? How to Choose the Best Inhaled Corticosterous for Your Asthma Medications That Are Highly Effective in Treating Most Cases of Asthma Learn About Using Advair Diskus for Asthma How to Treat Asthma Using Symbicort, Dulera, Advair, and Breo Budesonide For Your Asthma Do I Need a Beta Agonist for My Asthma? Learn How Histamine Can Impact Your Asthma Asthma Medication Side Effects You Should Know About An Overview of Asthma Treatment What Does Mometasone Furoate Do for My Asthma? These Are the Best and Safest Medicines for Asthma Prevent Asthma Symptoms With Your Controller Medication How Albuterol and SABAs Treat Acute Asthma Symptoms What Should You Know About Advair for Kids?