Is Prednisone Used for COPD?

March 17, 2023
Andrew Gallagher
5 Min Read

Maintenance Dose of Prednisone for COPD

During a flare up or acute exacerbation in a patient's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms, you will most likely be prescribed oral steroids, these will come in tablet or liquid form, often this will be prednisone.

This fast-acting steroid treatment is usually prescribed for short-term use, often five to seven days. Your steroid dose will depend on the severity of your symptoms, the strength of the particular medicine, and other factors. For example, the prednisone dose for COPD exacerbation may be anywhere from 5 to 60 milligrams (mg) daily.

πŸ“ Prescription medication such as steroid tablets and other treatment decisions should always be made on an individual basis.

Among the more commonly prescribed treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are:

Occasionally, for COPD patients who have recurring acute exacerbation, your doctor may prescribe a treatment plan of a maintenance dose of prednisone for COPD, and this may last longer than 7 days. If you are taking it longer term, ensure that you are aware of the side effects it can cause, and the withdrawal symptoms.


Prednisone vs Prednisilone

For clarity on the differences between prednisone and prednisolone, both are corticosteroids and used to treat the same conditions. The main difference between prednisone and prednisolone is that prednisone must be converted by liver enzymes to prednisolone before it can work.

They are both considered an equally effective treatment, have the same side effects, and have very similar dosing schedules.

Prednisone and prednisolone are used interchangeably in the following article.

Prednisone is a corticosteroid; these medications are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Unfortunately, these medications carry the risk of a variety of side effects.


Why Take a Prednisone Dosage for COPD?

There are many benefits to taking prednisone for COPD, they are very fast acting and you should start to feel better quickly after a COPD exacerbation. If a COPD patient is having a severe exacerbation, they will most likely be prescribed steroid therapy such as prednisone.

Also, the fact prednisone for a COPD exacerbation is prescribed for a short term, usually less than a week, means that side effects can be reduced.

It should be mentioned that steroid medications should not replace your inhaler, long term inhaler medication is the best way to reduce your COPD symptoms. Oral steroids such as prednisone should only be taken for acute exacerbation of COPD symptoms. Long-term maintenance inhalers are the best way, alongside quitting smoking and pulmonary rehabilitation, to slow down the progression of COPD, and maintain your lung function.

While having an exacerbation, the earlier treatment is administered, generally the less severe the exacerbation. This is a key step in slowing down progression of COPD symptoms and keeping current lung function.


Maintenance dose of prednisone for COPD
Maintenance dose of prednisone for COPD



Even with a low prednisone dose for COPD exacerbation, oral steroids can lower your immune system. Be especially mindful of washing your hands and reducing your exposure to people who may have an infection that can be easily transmitted.

The medications can also contribute to osteoporosis, so your doctor may advise you to increase your vitamin D and calcium intake or start taking drugs to fight bone loss.

Oral steroids should be taken with food.


Risks Associated with Prednisone for COPD Dosage

There are side effects associated with prednisone, but the risks of developing any side effects are much higher if you are taking long-term low dose prednisone for COPD, the below tips might help out a little.

  • Prednisone should be taken in the morning because it raises the heart rate, which keeps you awake. Insomnia, weight gain, indigestion, and excessive sweating are the most common side effects.
  • If a patient stops taking prednisone abruptly, they may experience adverse effects. If they have been taking it for more than 3 weeks or have taken high doses (more than 40mg) for more than 1 week, they shouldn't stop taking it without talking to their doctor.


Mood Swings

One of the most severe side effects of prednisone for COPD is the effect on mood; users have described feelings ranging from euphoria to frustration to anxiety within minutes. These feelings can come and go in quick succession and appear to be unrelated to anything. Patients on prednisone may experience extreme anger and sadness for no apparent reason, this is an extreme adverse effect of this treatment.

If you have concerns that your negative moods and feelings have become more severe, are restricting your daily activities, or are potentially harmful, you should contact a health care practitioner as soon as possible.

Prednisone-induced mood swings normally subside once a person stops taking the medication. However, stopping prednisone should be done gradually and in accordance with a healthcare provider's instructions. It's also common to have to taper off prednisone gradually if a therapy change is required.


Reduce Risks

For the most benefit with least risk:


  • Ask your doctor about trying to lower doses and intermittent dosing. New forms of steroid treatment come in different strength and lengths of dosing. Enquire with your doctor about using low-dose, short term medications or taking oral corticosteroids every other day instead of daily.
  • Talk to your doctor about switching to nonoral forms of corticosteroids. Inhaled corticosteroids for asthma, for example, reach lung surfaces directly, reducing the rest of your body's exposure to them and leading to fewer side effects.
  • Take care when discontinuing therapy. If you take oral corticosteroids for a long time, your adrenal glands may produce less of their natural steroid hormones. To give your adrenal glands time to recover this function, your doctor may reduce your dosage gradually. If the dosage is reduced too quickly, your adrenal glands may not have time to recover and you may experience fatigue, body aches and lightheadedness.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet. This, or similar identification, is recommended if you've been using corticosteroids for a long time.
  • See your doctor regularly. If you're taking long-term corticosteroid therapy, see your doctor regularly to check for side effects.


πŸ“š Have a look at how to create a self management plan for COPD.


Balancing the Mental Seesaw

When using prednisone for COPD, not everyone experiences mood changes, and the majority of the time the adverse effects are considered'mild' (though it may not feel like that at the time). Knowing that mood swings are a possibility and that can be variable is the first step in coping with them.

Learning to recognize mood swings and dealing with them can be a key in managing the side effects of prednisone.

Talk to your doctor about potential for mood swings, and find out what to do if there are changes in behavior that are extreme or interfere with daily activities (work, school, social events).

Tell family members and friends about your medication and that a common side effect is something that can appear to be irrationality or rapid changes in mood. This may help in instilling understanding and empathy if any mood swings do occur.

Ensure you are using stress relief tools (meditation, mindfulness, calming rituals) this can really help you get on top of it.

Do check-ins on your current emotional state. Are your moods reflecting your environment, are your reactions out sized compared to the events happening? If not clear, check in with a family member or friend for perspective.


A Word From Filter

Prednisone can have negative side effects, but they can help with inflammation, pain, and discomfort in a variety of diseases and conditions. Make sure to discuss the benefits and risks of this class of drugs with your doctor.

The physical side effects can be severe, but the mental ones are often overlooked and can have a negative impact on relationships.

Understanding the side effects is the first step toward managing them; explaining what is happening to friends, family, and coworkers can help you get through your medication schedule without emotional damage.

Filter's app can really help you dealing with the emotional side of your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, we use research based therapies and create a personalized program to help you improve your mental health and well-being while living with COPD, check it out here.


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