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Common Symbicort Side Effects

Thursday 2 May 2024
6 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Side Effects to Expect

i. Mild Symbicort Side Effects

ii. Serious Symbicort Side Effects

II. Reduce the Risk of Symbicort Side Effects

III. When to Seek Help

IV. Conclusion

Symbicort is a prescription inhaler containing a combination of budesonide and formoterol.

  • Budesonide is a corticosteroid that reduces inflammation in the airways.
  • Formoterol is a long-acting bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles around the airways, allowing them to open up. [1]

While Symbicort can improve lung function in people with COPD and asthma, [1] it can also cause side effects. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the common and serious side effects of Symbicort, along with tips to prevent or minimize them. We’ll also discuss when you should seek medical attention. 

Side Effects to Expect

Symbicort may cause side effects in some people. Fortunately, most side effects from Symbicort are mild to moderate and temporary. However, some individuals may experience serious side effects with long-term Symbicort use. [2]

Mild Symbicort Side Effects

Mild side effects of Symbicort are generally temporary and tend to resolve on their own. The side effects differ based on whether you’re taking Symbicort for asthma or COPD. [1]

If you’re taking Symbicort for COPD, mild side effects can include:

  • Throat irritation
  • Thrush in the mouth and throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Upper respiratory tract infection [1]

If you’re taking Symbicort for asthma, mild side effects can include:

  • Throat irritation
  • Headache
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Throat pain
  • Sinusitis
  • Flu
  • Back pain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Thrush in mouth and throat [1]

Serious Symbicort Side Effects

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Symbicort may cause serious side effects. Although these side effects are rare, it is important to be aware of them so that you can recognize and report any symptoms to your doctor immediately.

Since Symbicort contains both formoterol and budesonide, side effects may come from either component. Here are some of the potential side effects to be mindful of:

  • Hypokalemia (low blood potassium): Formoterol can sometimes cause decreases in serum potassium levels. Most often, this effect is temporary and does not require potassium supplementation. However, in certain cases, it can lead to clinically significant hypokalemia, which may have adverse cardiovascular effects.
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar): Beta-agonists like formoterol can increase blood glucose concentrations. Usually, these effects are mild and temporary. However, higher dosages of Symbicort than recommended may lead to more significant hyperglycemia.
  • Seizures: Formoterol has the potential to cause seizures through central nervous system stimulation. If you have a history of seizure disorders, it is important to exercise caution when using Symbicort.
  • Adrenal suppression: Switching from systemic steroids to Symbicort can sometimes result in impaired adrenal function. To mitigate this risk, your doctor will gradually reduce your systemic steroid dosage before initiating Symbicort treatment.
  • Weak immune system: Corticosteroids, like budesonide, work by suppressing inflammation, which can also dampen the immune system. This may make you more susceptible to infections, so it's important to take necessary precautions and promptly address any signs of infection.
  • Reduction in bone density: Inhaled corticosteroids can potentially lead to a decrease in bone mineral density. Certain individuals, such as those who are immobile, have a family history of osteoporosis, post-menopausal women, older individuals, and those with poor nutrition, may be at higher risk.
  • Glaucoma: Long-term use of corticosteroids can cause increased pressure in the eye area, leading to glaucoma or damage to the optic nerves. Regular eye check-ups are essential for individuals using Symbicort for an extended period.
  • Paradoxical bronchospasm: In some cases, taking a bronchodilator like Symbicort can trigger a sudden contraction of the smooth muscles in the bronchi, leading to a paradoxical bronchospasm. This is a life-threatening condition that can occur with inhaled medications. [2]

It's important to remember that these side effects are relatively rare and may not occur in everyone. However, being aware of them allows you to be proactive in monitoring your health and promptly reporting any concerns to your healthcare provider.

Reduce the Risk of Symbicort Side Effects

While Symbicort can lead to side effects, you can take steps to avoid or minimize the risk.

  • Do not take more Symbicort than prescribed by your doctor: Taking too much Symbicort can lead to dangerous side effects like chest pain, high blood pressure, fast heartbeat, headache, shaking, and anxiety. [2] Stick to the dosage schedule provided by your doctor.
  • If you miss a dose, skip it, and return to your regular dosing schedule: Symbicort lasts for 12 hours [2] so taking a dose too close to your next scheduled dose can increase the amount of Symbicort in your body and lead to side effects.
  • Inform your doctor of any other medications you may be taking: Symbicort can interact with certain medications, leading to potentially dangerous side effects. [2] Be sure to let your doctor know of all prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins you're taking.
  • Keep a rescue inhaler: It's important to remember that Symbicort is not a rescue inhaler and should not be relied upon for sudden asthma symptoms or COPD flare-ups. Always keep a rescue inhaler with you for emergencies. [1]

When to Seek Help

a doctor consultation

When taking any medication, being aware of potential side effects is crucial. If you notice any concerning symptoms while taking Symbicort, contact your doctor right away. While most people tolerate Symbicort well, it's important to monitor for signs of severe side effects.

Some symptoms of potentially serious side effects to report include:

  • Symptoms of hypokalemia: muscle weakness, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, confusion, mood changes, feeling like your heart is skipping beats. [3]
  • Symptoms of hyperglycemia: frequent urination, excessive thirst, feeling tired, frequent hunger, dry mouth, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, wounds that heal slowly. [4]
  • Symptoms of seizures: staring, jerking movements of arms and legs, stiffening of body, loss of consciousness, breathing problems, loss of bladder or bowel control, not responsive to words, appearing confused, periods of rapid eye blinking. [5]
  • Symptoms of adrenal suppression: chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, joint pain, hypoglycemia, irregular or absent menstrual periods, craving salty foods. [6]
  • Symptoms of glaucoma: intense eye pain, nausea, vomiting, red eye, headache, tenderness around the eyes, seeing rings around lights, blurred vision. [7]
  • Symptoms of paradoxical bronchospasm: wheezing, coughing, increased work of breathing. In this case, take a rescue inhaler and let your doctor know immediately. {{8}}


Symbicort can be a valuable medication for managing asthma or COPD when taken as prescribed by your doctor. While the risks of side effects are low, being aware of potential symptoms allows you to identify and address them promptly.

Don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns about using Symbicort. With proper use, Symbicort can improve breathing and quality of life for many people with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.