Inhaled steroids might help with COVID-19, but doctors don’t know yet.

Inhaled steroids are commonly used to treat asthma and other lung conditions. They work by “turning down” the body’s immune response. Doctors have wondered whether this helps or hurts with COVID-19. On one hand, turning down the immune system might make it harder to fight off an infection. On the other hand, if an overactive immune system is part of the problem with COVID-19, turning it down might help. And a study of a different steroid, dexamethasone, which is a pill, has shown promise in reducing the risk of dying for hospitalized patients with severe COVID.

So one question becomes three! Here they are.

Question 1: Should people taking inhaled steroids stop because the medication puts them at risk for getting COVID? 

Answer: No, don’t stop. So far, doctors have not found any reason for people who need these medications to stop taking them. So if you’re taking these medications, keep doing it! Stopping would certainly put you at risk for an asthma flare.

Questions 2 & 3: Should people not taking inhaled steroids now start because that might prevent COVID? And should people with COVID-19 take them as treatment?

Anwer: Not yet. Despite news reports saying that inhaled steroids have helped some patients, there are not yet any published scientific studies. Fortunately, these studies are underway. For example, researchers at Stanford and Mayo Clinic are enrolling hospitalized patients in a randomized study to find out if a common inhaled steroid, budesonide, reduces the risk of severe breathing problems. 

We’ll keep you posted as the results come in.


Last update: July 29, 2020, 5:17 pm ET

Science review: ERS, GSN