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HealthInfo Canterbury

Prednisone (oral steroids)

This page has links to information in te reo Māori.


Prednisone is in a class of medicines known as corticosteroids, which is similar to the steroid hormones your body naturally makes. Prednisone is different to the steroids athletes take to build muscle (anabolic steroids).

Prednisone is used to treat many illnesses related to inflammation. For example, it's used to treat allergies, asthma, COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and other auto-immune diseases. Prednisone calms or suppresses the body's immune system to reduce inflammation anywhere in the body. This helps to reduce the symptoms associated with these conditions, especially in flare‑ups. It doesn't cure them.

Prednisone dosage

Your dose of prednisone will depend on which condition you're being treated for and how you respond.

Doses range from 5 mg to 60 mg daily. Some people may need a short course of prednisone (such as five days), while others may need to take it for longer (weeks to months).

Prednisone tablets come in different strengths. Check the strength of your tablets and your prescribed dose. Often you may need to take more than one tablet. If you're unsure about your dose or the number of tablets to take, ask your pharmacist.

Always take your prednisone exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much prednisone to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

How to take prednisone

Special instructions

If you get sick

If you're taking 5 mg or less of prednisone daily, it's important that you increase your dose if you get sick: When people get sick or have an accident, their body usually makes more cortisol to help them recover. If someone can't make this extra cortisol, they might go into shock or collapse unless they get extra steroids.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, prednisone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Most side effects are to do with how much prednisone you're taking and for how long.

Side effects

What to do

Trouble sleeping

Take prednisone in the morning or at least three hours before bedtime.

Headache, weak muscles, feeling tired

These are common when you first start taking prednisone and usually go away with time. Tell your doctor if troublesome.

Increased appetite

Eat well for good health and to maintain your weight. Develop an eating schedule and stick to it.

Fluid retention causing swollen ankles and feet

Whenever possible, sit with your feet raised. Avoid foods with high salt content. Tell your doctor if this happens.

Raised blood glucose (sugar)

If you have diabetes, you may need to increase the dose of your diabetes medication to control your blood glucose. Talk to your doctor.

Your doctor will monitor your blood glucose levels regularly if you're at risk of getting diabetes.

High blood pressure

You should have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it goes up, you may need treatment to bring it down.

Skin changes

Your skin might thin, bruise more easily and take longer to heal after injuries. You might develop stretch marks. Try to prevent unnecessary trauma to your skin.

Changes in mood or behaviour, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, bad dreams

Tell your GP if troublesome. If severe, phone your GP immediately. Outside your GP's normal hours, your call will be answered by a nurse who will be able to offer advice.

Eye pain and changes to your vision

Phone your GP immediately. Outside your GP's normal hours, your call will be answered by a nurse who will be able to offer advice.

Problems with your stomach such as stomach pain, blood in your stool or dark‑coloured stool

Phone your GP immediately. Outside your GP's normal hours, your call will be answered by a nurse who will be able to offer advice.

Thinning of bones (osteoporosis)

This can happen if you're on prednisone long‑term. Talk to your doctor about treatment to protect your bones.

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Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Page created March 2020. Last updated December 2020.


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