Conditions affecting your airways can lead to respiratory problems. Asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder – also referred as COPD are a few such conditions that can affect your lungs or airways. Asthma may be triggered due to stress, exposure to an irritant, virus or an allergen. On the other hand, incidence of COPD is linked to smoking habits or a family history of similar respiratory problems. Among the different types of treatment plans, use of inhalers is a common method to manage breathing problems. Symbicort is a drug which is inhaled or puffed to provide relief from breathing problems. There are however a few limitations for the use of this drug. It is also known to trigger a few side effects. A prior knowledge of its limitations and side effects can be very helpful.

Obstruction of airflow can trigger discomforts such as tightness in your chest, gasping for breath as well as wheezing. People who suffer from bronchial asthma experience an internal swelling of their airways which in turn can cause episodes of coughing. These episodes can get worse during the early morning hours or late in the night. These respiratory conditions may also trigger a few other medical problems; these include acid reflux or heartburns, sleep disorders such as apnea, mood shifts as well as anxiety.

In general, an obstruction in the airways can be classified into two categories – namely, lower airway or an upper airway condition. Obstruction in the lower airway is referred as obstructive lung disorder. This condition is often attributed to the shrinking of the bronchioles which leads to a reduced supply of oxygen to the arteries of your lungs. Symbicort is used for the treatment of a few of those respiratory conditions. It is commonly prescribed to treat asthma – which is an inflammation of your airways; once swollen, it makes it difficult to inhale and exhale needful amounts of air. This drug is also used for the case management of obstructive disorders such as COPD.

Symbicort is made of two active ingredients namely, formoterol and budesonide. Of these, formoterol is a beta 2 agonist. Its key function is to ease spasms by smoothening the muscles of your lower airways – i.e., near the bronchioles. The dilation of pulmonary muscles often leads to freeing of passages to restore normal respiration. The other active substance – budesonide – is a steroid. Within this class, it belongs to a genre called corticosteroids. Its main activity is the removal of irritation in airways by reducing or eliminating inflammation of lungs. In its inhaled form, budesonide can also be used for effective suppression of symptoms associated with asthma and a few other obstructive lung conditions.

Side effects of symbicort

This drug has the approval of the food and drug administration (FDA). Its use is cleared for a wide range of age groups including children of 6 years of age and above. It is not used for bring relief to sudden episodes of lung obstruction or breathing difficulties. Its use however decreases the frequency of flare-ups of asthma or COPD. Symbicort is known to cause a few adverse side effects. You need to remember that the nature of its adverse side effects may vary based on your respiratory condition – i.e., the side effects it causes among people with asthma may be moderately different than while being used for COPD or other types of obstructions in the airways.

Common side effects of symbicort are congestion in your nasal passages, infections in the upper side of your respiratory channel – these can manifest as flu-like symptoms or common cold, etc., speaking difficulties, discomforts in the abdomen such as vomiting, pain, nausea, etc., infections in oral parts due to yeast formation, headaches or sinusitis and lower back pain. Almost all of these discomforts may cease to show up in about 8 to 12 days; once your system gets used to the active ingredients of the drug. But, if these effects persist for long, you are advised to talk to your treating physician or the pharmacist immediately.

Allergic reactions

A small number of people who use symbicort may experience allergic reactions. However, it is difficult to predict who is more likely to develop allergies. Most allergic signs are milder in nature; some of them may include itchiness, rashes or hives on skin, discoloration and increase in body temperature. In very remote instances, some users have reported a few serious allergic reactions such as speaking problems or pain while talking, inflammation of lips or throat and swelling of limbs as well as eyes. If you develop any one of these side effects, you need to quickly talk to the helpline of the food and drug administration (FDA) or contact 911 right away. In order to avoid such emergencies, you are advised to share details about known allergies as well as hypersensitivity prior to starting your medication plan.

Rare but acute side effects

Symbicort is unlikely to cause severe side effects. However, in remote instances, a few serious side effects have showed up. These adverse effects may include reduction of bone mass, risks of fractures, reduced levels of potassium, increase in blood sugar level, infections in the lungs such as pneumonia, etc. You are at added risk if you are experiencing frequent spells of diarrhea, vomiting or sweating profusely and if you are taking diuretics (water pills). Frequent or regular use of this symbicort may increase the presence of hormones like cortisol; this can lead to tiredness, loss of body weight, hypotension or drop in blood pressure level while you are in an erect posture.

Some of these adverse effects can – at times, turn into near-fatal conditions. It is a highly recommended to take medical help on an emergency basis upon noticing one or more of the following side effects. As mentioned, the risks of increased sugar levels are a possibility; the signs are often unmistakable. These may manifest as the need to urinate often, persistent feeling of thirst, inability to remain focused, feeling drowsy or dizzy. Another severe side effect is the reduced presence of potassium; this condition can show up as frequent spells of drowsiness, changes in heartbeats, cramping of muscles, weakness and passing out.

In some very rare instances, some users have experienced side effects like convulsions, tremors, acute level of drowsiness, etc. owing to the drug’s impact on the nervous system. In equally rare circumstances, a small percentage of users reported cardiac problems as well as vascular conditions; these problems showed up as angina or pain in chest, erratic / rapid heartbeats as well as changes in pulse rates and increase in blood pressure levels. Among children, a prolonged use of this drug may lead to developmental issues or reduced growth rates.

Safe use of symbicort to avoid or minimise likely side effects

The dosage levels prescribed to you can depend on multiple factors. These include your age, body weight, gender, type of ailment, prior or current clinical conditions and also based on how well your body reacts to the initial puffs or doses. The usual dosage however is not more than 2 puffs (or, inhalations) each day. You are advised to read all the instructions printed on the product’s label prior to using it. If you need additional information, it is a good practice to consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Symbicort is available in an inhalable format. This inhaler is made with two distinctive strengths; 160 micrograms (mcg) budesonide & 4.5 mcg formoterol and 80 mcg budesonide & 4.5 mcg formoterol. While treating children aged from 7 to 11 years, the dosage strength is 80 mcg budesonide & 4.5 mcg formoterol. The dosage frequency for children may depend largely on the nature of the respiratory problem or obstruction in their lungs. In case of adults, the standard dose is 160 mcg & 4.5 mcg of budesonide and formoterol, respectively. The standard dose for adults is twice every day at the same timeslot; inhaling the drug at the same time every day is known to increase its efficacy levels. The generic version of symbicort may cost much less than the branded version; however, its generic form is not commonly available.

Risks of overdose

Such risks may often arise when you have missed a dose. It is unsafe to take the missed puff when your next inhalation is coming up soon. Always ensure to keep a 12-hour time interval between two puffs. Your pharmacist may recommend setting up reminders on the phone or use a timer to take drugs on time. Side effects of an overdose include tremors (shakes), rapid heartbeats, angina (chest pain), passing out or fainting. Upon noticing one or more of these adverse side effects, you are advised to quickly reach out to 911 or call a local poison control center as soon as possible.

Precautions needed to minimise the side effects

Your medical team or the treating doctor must know about prior medical conditions, if any. While sharing your clinical history as well as your family’s medical history, ensure to inform about prior incidence of conditions such as hypertension, angina, cardiac disorders or heart failures, ocular conditions such as glaucoma, cataract, etc., hepatic conditions like hepatitis or cirrhosis, bone conditions including loss of bone mass, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, etc.

Prior to having a surgical intervention or a dental procedure, you need to inform your surgical or dental team about the intake of symbicort. Also, elderly users may experience side effects like prolonged QT cycle. If you have had a recent episode of cardiac arrest or a heart failure, QT-prolongation can lead to near-fatal or fatal outcomes. Hence, elderly people or older users need to share more details about their cardiac health and their overall wellbeing before starting to take symbicort.

In sum, symbicort has two active ingredients – budesonide and formoterol. Budesonide is a steroid, belonging to a family of drugs known as corticosteroids. It can suppress symptoms of asthma and a few other obstructive lung conditions. Formoterol is a beta 2 agonist; it helps by easing the muscles of bronchioles and frees air-passages to restore normal respiration. Common side effects of symbicort are flu-like conditions, common cold, problems while talking, congested nasal airways, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, yeast formation in the mouth, sinusitis, pain in the back and headaches. Almost all these side effects may disappear in a week or 10 days, once your body gets used to this drug and its active ingredients. However, if these adverse effects do not go away, you are advised to talk to your treating physician immediately.

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