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How long does it take for Symbicort to work?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on May 28, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Key Points

  • If you use Symbicort for asthma, your symptoms should start improving within 15 minutes of your inhalation. Full improvement in your symptoms may not occur for 2 weeks or longer after you have started treatment. Results can vary between patients.
  • In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Symbicort can start improving your lung function within 5 minutes. Symbicort may also help to reduce your use of a rescue inhaler for acute COPD symptoms.
  • Symbicort (generic name: budesonide and formoterol) is an inhaler that contains two medications to control symptoms and improve lung function in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Budesonide is classified as a corticosteroid that lessens inflammation in your lungs. Formoterol is a long acting beta-2 agonist that helps the muscles around your airways stay relaxed.

There is no cure for asthma or COPD, but medications are available that can treat your symptoms and improve your lifestyle. Symbicort effectiveness depends upon you taking it twice a day, every day, as prescribed. Symbicort is a maintenance (or “controller”) inhaler medication you use long-term for symptom control and to help prevent acute attacks.

When using Symbicort you may find that you need to use your rescue inhaler less frequently. However, Symbicort is not used as a “rescue inhaler” and is not used for treating an acute asthma or COPD bronchospasm attack. A fast-acting inhaler, such as the short-acting beta-2 agonist albuterol, is typically used for acute attacks. Be sure you always have a rescue inhaler with you.

Call your health care provider if your symptoms do not improve after using Symbicort for one week or if you are using your rescue inhaler more often than normal. If your symptoms worsen after taking Symbicort, contact your doctor immediately.

Once your asthma is controlled your doctor may decide to switch you to an inhaler that only contains a corticosteroid. This medication is also used over the long term.

Symbicort comes in different strengths for asthma, and if your symptoms do not improve after one to two weeks, your doctor may increase your dose.

Only the higher strength of Symbicort, the 160 mcg and 4.5 mcg strength, is used long-term to improve symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

How do I know if my asthma is under control?

Questions you might ask yourself to determine if your asthma is well-controlled:

  • Do I experience asthma symptoms more than twice a week?
  • Do my symptoms wake me up at night more than twice a month?
  • Do I use my asthma “rescue” medicine or inhaler more than twice a week?
  • Do my asthma symptoms limit my normal activities or activities I would like to participate in?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, talk to your doctor to see if you might need additional medication to control your symptoms.

Your doctor can determine if you have asthma through a complete medical history, physical exam and certain tests that can assess your breathing capacity, known as lung function tests. Other tests, like allergy tests, chest x-rays or an electrocardiogram (ECG) that measures the electrical activity of the heart may also be ordered.

How do I know if I have COPD?

COPD is a lung disease that develops over time, usually because of lung exposure to tobacco smoke or other chemicals from the environment. With COPD, you may have both bronchitis or emphysema - or both.

COPD most often occurs in people who smoke or used to smoke, including cigarettes, pipe, cigar and other types of tobacco smoke. Most people diagnosed with COPD smoke cigarettes. Secondhand smoke and environmental pollutants smoke can also contribute to COPD. Rarely, a genetic disorder that runs in families can lead to COPD.

Symptoms of COPD can include:

  • Coughing with excessive mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or wheezing

Your doctor can diagnose COPD through a physical exam, a review of your medical history and with lung function testing. Other tests, such as x-rays or blood tests may also be ordered.

What are the most common side effects with Symbicort?

The most common side effects you might see while using Symbicort include:

  • Throat irritation
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus membranes)
  • Back pain
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Thrush (white patches) in the mouth or throat
  • Headache
  • Throat pain
  • Flu
  • Nasal congestion
  • Vomiting

Before you start treatment with Symbicort, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you have heart problems or high blood pressure.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the medications you take, including prescription, over-the-counter and dietary or herbal supplements. Some patients taking Symbicort may experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, or change in heart rhythm

These are not all the possible side effects of Symbicort but you can review the full list here, and discuss with your health care professional.

Bottom Line

  • For asthma, your symptoms should start improving within 15 minutes of your Symbicort inhalation. Full improvement in your symptoms may not occur for 2 weeks or longer after you have started treatment.
  • In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Symbicort can start improving your lung function within 5 minutes. Symbicort may also help to reduce your use of a rescue inhaler for acute COPD symptoms.
  • Results can vary between patients. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after using Symbicort for one week, or if you are using your rescue inhaler more often than normal. If your symptoms worsen after taking Symbicort, contact your doctor immediately.

This is not all the information you need to know about Symbicort for safe and effective use. Review the full product information here, and speak to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns.

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