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Can Steroid Inhalers Cause Infections in the Mouth?

By February 21, 2009

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This question was recently posted in the COPD forum:


Have you ever heard of infections d/t inhaler not being rinsed off? I have some white patches in back of my throat-been rinsing with salt water and one is almost gone--the other appears to have shrunk some--?


Well, Ann, I am so glad you asked this question, because, in fact, oral candidiasis , or thrush, is fairly common when using steroid-containing inhalers, especially if you don't take necessary precautions to prevent it. Why? Because only 10 - 30 percent of the inhaled steroid actually makes it to your lungs. The rest, you guessed it, remains in your mouth, a perfect place for this friendly little fungi to grow and flourish.

Oral thrush is caused by a fungal infection that leaves milky white or yellowish lesions inside the mouth. The lesions are slightly raised and generally painless. If you think you have symptoms of oral thrush, see your doctor right away. To prevent oral thrush from occurring, make sure you:

  • Use a spacer or holding chamber with your inhaler
  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly after using your inhaler
  • Wash your inhaler with warm soapy water after each use and let air dry
  • Talk with your doctor about adjusting the frequency of your inhaler dose and to see if you need an anti-fungal medication

Read more about using steroids for treating COPD:

Pros and Cons of Glucocorticoids in the Treatment of COPD


Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Corticosteroids. Updated 2005.

May 11, 2010 at 10:53 am
(1) thrush infection says:

Other great ways of treating oral thrush due to antibiotics or a weakened immune system is yogurt. Simply eat plain natural yogurt 3 times a day until the lesions have cleared up.

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