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How often can I use my Symbicort inhaler?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on July 19, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

In general, most people use Symbicort as two puffs twice a day, morning and evening 12 hours apart, for long-term control of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Symbicort should NOT replace a rescue inhaler (such as albuterol) for sudden symptoms.

Symbicort 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 a corticosteroid ("steroid") that lessens inflammation in your lungs.
  • Formoterol is a long acting beta-2 agonist that helps the muscles around your airways stay relaxed.

Asthma and COPD are conditions that usually need to be controlled with long-term treatment. You may notice an improvement in your symptoms over time, but continue to use Symbicort as it is considered a maintenance (controller) medication.

Do not adjust your doses on your own or take extra doses of you medicine unless directed by your doctor. Only stop using Symbicort when your doctor tells you to. If you suddenly stop taking your medicine, your breathing symptoms may worsen.

How quickly should Symbicort work?

Asthma: In asthma, Symbicort should begin to improve your symptoms within 15 minutes of your dose, although results can vary between patients. Full improvement may not occur for two weeks or longer after you have started treatment.

  • Both the Symbicort 80 mcg / 4.5 mcg or the 160 mcg / 4.5 mcg twice daily doses are used to treat asthma in patients 12 years of age and older.
  • If you have asthma and your symptoms improve, your doctor may decide at some point that you can stop taking Symbicort. You may be prescribed a long-term asthma medication that only contains an inhaled corticosteroid. This is a decision only your doctor should make.
  • Do not stop using Symbicort without speaking with your doctor first.

COPD: In COPD, Symbicort can start to improve your lung function in about 5 minutes. Symbicort may also help to lessen flare-ups and reduce your use of a rescue inhaler for acute COPD symptoms.

  • The higher strength of Symbicort, the 160 mcg / 4.5 mcg strength is used as a maintenance treatment to improve symptoms of COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

If your symptoms do not improve, you may need a dose adjustment or a different medication for your asthma or COPD. Do not take extra doses of Symbicort.

Call your doctor right away if any of these problems occur while using Symbicort:

  • your breathing problems worsen
  • you are using your rescue inhaler more often than usual
  • your rescue inhaler does not relieve your sudden breathing symptoms
  • your peak flow meter numbers decrease
  • your symptoms do not improve after using Symbicort for one week.

Bottom Line

  • Continue to take your Symbicort for as long as your doctor recommends it and exactly as prescribed. Do not take extra doses.
  • Do not stop using Symbicort without speaking with your doctor first. If you suddenly stop taking your medicine, your breathing symptoms in asthma or COPD may worsen.
  • For both asthma and COPD, Symbicort is inhaled as two puffs twice a day, morning and evening, 12 hours apart. You use this medicine everyday.
  • If you find that your symptoms are not controlled or you are using your rescue inhaler more often than usual, contact your doctor immediately. You may need to have your dose adjusted or your medicine changed.

This is not all the information you need to know about Symbicort for safe and effective use. Review the full Symbicort information here, and discuss this information with your doctor or other health care provider.

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