Symbicort Side Effects: A Detailed Guide

Symbicort Side Effects: A Detailed Guide

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS
Last Updated: September 1, 2023


When managing your asthma or COPD, you play a vital role in ensuring your well-being. One key tool at your disposal is Symbicort. This medication has revolutionized the treatment of these respiratory conditions. Let’s consider what it does to the lungs and explore its critical role in asthma management and COPD treatment.

Symbicort is a combination inhaler containing two active ingredients: budesonide and formoterol. They work together to reduce airway inflammation, open up your air passages, and make it easier to breathe.

While Symbicort offers remarkable benefits in controlling asthma and COPD symptoms, it’s crucial to be aware of potential side effects. But what are the side effects of Symbicort?

Understanding Symbicort

Understanding Symbicort is essential to asthma or COPD management, as it is a potent combination medication designed to provide comprehensive relief. At the heart of Symbicort’s effectiveness are its two active ingredients: budesonide and formoterol.

  • Budesonide: An anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, budesonide reduces inflammation in the airways. In asthma and COPD, inflammation can restrict airflow, causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. By inhibiting the inflammation, budesonide helps alleviate these symptoms and prevents flare-ups.
  • Formoterol: Formoterol, on the other hand, is a long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator. Its primary function is to relax and dilate the airway muscles, making breathing easier. This bronchodilator effect provides quick relief from symptoms like bronchoconstriction, leading to improved airflow.

By combining these two active ingredients into a single inhaler, Symbicort provides both immediate and long-term relief. This combination therapy addresses the underlying inflammation while ensuring your airways remain open.

Moreover, Symbicort is classified as a long-term control medication. This means that it’s not intended for immediate symptom relief during acute attacks. Instead, it’s used regularly to maintain control and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms over time. You must adhere to the prescribed dosage regimen to experience its full benefits.

Common Symbicort side effects

Symbicort is effective as a treatment for asthma and COPD management. Just like any medication, however, it may lead to some (typically mild) common side effects:

  • Throat Irritation: Some users have experienced a dry or irritated throat when using Symbicort inhalers, which can result in coughing or a sore throat.
  • Oral Thrush: Rarely, the steroid component of budesonide can lead to oral thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth causing white patches on the tongue or inside the cheeks. After use, rinse the mouth with water and spit into the sink; do not swallow the water.
  • Headache: A relatively common side effect of Symbicort involves headaches, which are usually mild and temporary.
  • Nausea: Some individuals may experience mild nausea when using Symbicort.
  • Tremors: Formoterol, the bronchodilator component, can sometimes cause mild trembling (tremors) in the hands or fingers.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Formoterol may also lead to an increased heart rate, but this effect is generally not severe.

It’s crucial to remember that many individuals tolerate Symbicort well with minimal side effects. These reactions are more common when the medication isn’t used correctly. Discuss any changes or symptoms with your doctor.


Of all Symbicort side effects, anxiety deserves special attention. While not common, some users have reported experiencing increased anxiety when using Symbicort. This may be attributed to the formoterol, which can stimulate the nervous system, potentially leading to feelings of restlessness or anxiety.

Patients who’ve experienced anxiety with Symbicort often describe a sense of unease, nervousness, or jitteriness. It’s essential to differentiate between anxiety caused by the medication and symptoms related to the underlying respiratory condition. Notably, individuals with preexisting anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to this side effect.

Dangers of Symbicort and serious side effects

As with many pharmaceuticals, Symbicort does carry some serious risks, albeit relatively rare. Serious and dangerous side effects associated with Symbicort include:

  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some users may experience severe allergic reactions to Symbicort. Signs of an allergic reaction can include hives, severe itching, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, and difficulty breathing. Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is exceptionally rare but possible.
  • Worsening of Asthma or COPD: Occasionally, Symbicort can lead to a sudden worsening of asthma or COPD symptoms. This can manifest as increased shortness of breath, increased use of rescue inhalers, or a decrease in lung function. These side effects require immediate medical attention.
  • Cardiovascular Effects: Formoterol can affect the cardiovascular system among those with preexisting conditions. Rarely, formoterol use may lead to an increase in blood pressure, heart palpitations, or an irregular heartbeat.
  • Osteoporosis: Prolonged use of corticosteroids like budesonide, found in Symbicort, can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones that are more susceptible to fractures.
  • Cataracts and Glaucoma: Long-term use of corticosteroids may also increase the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma, potentially leading to vision problems.

The Symbicort inhaler: focused insights

The Symbicort inhaler is a pivotal tool for managing asthma and COPD, offering targeted delivery of its active ingredients to the airways. While it is highly effective, users should be aware of the potential side effects of the Symbicort inhaler itself and how to minimize them.

Side effects related to the Symbicort inhaler

  • Throat Irritation: One of the most common side effects of Symbicort is throat irritation in the form of a dry or sore throat.
  • Cough: Some users may experience a bothersome (but usually not harmful) increased urge to cough after inhaling Symbicort.

Tips to minimize Symbicort inhaler side effects

  • Rinse your mouth: Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after every use.
  • Spacer device: Consider using a spacer device with your inhaler to deliver medication more effectively without depositing it in your mouth and throat.
  • Proper technique: Ensure that you’re using the inhaler with the correct technique, as demonstrated by your healthcare provider.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help alleviate throat irritation and minimize coughing.
  • Regular follow-ups: Maintain regular appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your progress and assess any specific side effects.
  • Medication schedule: Adhere to your prescribed medication schedule diligently to reduce the risk of side effects.

Comparative analysis of Symbicort vs. other medications

In the realm of asthma medications, Symbicort stands as a notable option, but it’s valuable to consider how it compares to other medications regarding both effectiveness and side effects.

Effectiveness: Symbicort combines an inhaled corticosteroid and a long-acting beta-agonist to provide anti-inflammatory and bronchodilatory effects. This combination makes Symbicort highly effective at managing both asthma and COPD symptoms. It offers long-term control by reducing airway inflammation while providing rapid relief through bronchodilation. However, it’s worth noting that its effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Side effects: Comparatively, Symbicort shares some side effects with other asthma medications. Common side effects among inhaler medications include throat irritation, coughing, and, in rare cases, oral thrush. However, Symbicort’s unique combination of active ingredients may lead to specific side effects, such as a slight increase in heart rate or tremors due to formoterol. These effects are generally mild and temporary.

When comparing Symbicort to other asthma medications, it’s important to consider individual factors like allergies, medication tolerability, and specific health needs. Some individuals may find other medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers, more suitable for their conditions and less likely to cause side effects.

The goal in choosing medication for lung conditions is to balance the effectiveness and side effect profiles while tailoring the treatment to your unique needs, ensuring optimal asthma management and improved quality of life.

Dosage and administration

The dosage and administration of Symbicort are critical aspects of effective asthma and COPD management, with specific guidelines for different age groups:

For Adults and Adolescents (12 years and older):

  • The recommended dose is two inhalations of Symbicort 160/4.5 mcg (or lower strengths, depending on your condition) twice daily.
  • It’s essential to rinse your mouth with water after each inhalation to reduce the risk of side effects.

For Children (6 to 11 years old):

  • The recommended dose is two inhalations of Symbicort 80/4.5 mcg (or lower strengths) twice daily.
  • As with adults and adolescents, rinsing the mouth after each use is crucial.

For Children (under 6 years old):

  • The use of Symbicort in children under 6 is generally not recommended without specific guidance from a healthcare provider.

The importance of adhering to the prescribed dosage

Adhering to the prescribed dosage is paramount for optimal management of your condition. Failure to do so can lead to inadequate symptom control, potentially worsening your situation. Conversely, exceeding the recommended dose can increase the risk of side effects without providing additional benefits.

Consistency in medication use is key to maintaining stable lung function. Always discuss any concerns or difficulties with your healthcare provider to ensure appropriate, prescribed dosage for monitoring your condition and to make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

Patient experiences and testimonials

Real-life patient experiences and testimonials offer valuable insights into the practical aspects of using Symbicort and understanding side effects from a user’s perspective.

Positive Experiences

Many patients have reported positive experiences with Symbicort, noting significant improvements in their quality of life. They often express relief from troublesome asthma or COPD symptoms, such as reduced coughing, wheezing, and better overall breathability.

Some even share stories of being able to engage in physical activities they had previously avoided due to their condition. These testimonials emphasize the medication’s efficacy in providing symptom control.

Challenges and side effects

Users also candidly discuss the side effects they encounter. Throat irritation and coughing are commonly mentioned side effects, but users often highlight the importance of proper inhaler technique and rinsing the mouth to minimize these issues.

Some users, especially those with underlying anxiety, have reported experiencing anxiety or restlessness as a side effect. However, they acknowledge that these experiences can vary widely among individuals.

FAQ: Frequently asked questions about Symbicort

Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about Symbicort side effects:

  • Does Symbicort cause weight gain? No, weight gain or any weight changes are not common side effects of Symbicort.
  • Can Symbicort cause mood swings or anxiety? While mood swings and anxiety are not usual reactions, some users have reported experiencing anxiety or restlessness.
  • Is it normal to experience throat irritation with Symbicort? Yes, throat irritation is a common side effect of Symbicort that can be minimized by rinsing your mouth with water after each use.
  • Can Symbicort cause heart palpitations? In some cases, Symbicort (specifically the formoterol component) may lead to an increased heart rate or palpitations. These effects are generally mild and temporary.
  • Does Symbicort cause oral thrush? While rare, Symbicort can potentially lead to oral thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth. Rinsing your mouth after use can reduce this risk.
  • Can I stop using Symbicort suddenly? It’s crucial not to discontinue or make changes to your Symbicort dosage abruptly without first consulting your healthcare provider. Suddenly stopping the medication can lead to a worsening of asthma or COPD symptoms.

Conclusion: The benefits of Symbicort outweigh the side effects

Symbicort is an effective treatment for asthma and COPD management, with mostly mild negative reactions. Common side effects may include throat irritation and cough, while rare side effects can encompass mood changes, heart rate fluctuations, and the possibility of oral thrush.

Understanding these side effects and their significance is vital for your care. However, it’s important to remember that individual experiences can vary, and not everyone will encounter these effects. Your healthcare provider is your best resource for personalized advice, as they can assess your unique medical history and tailor your treatment accordingly.

If you are experiencing difficulty paying for your Symbicort prescription, The Rx Advocates can help. Contact us today to determine your eligibility – and take control of your lung’s long-term treatment.

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