How can I safely take prednisone?

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Always take prednisone (a corticosteroid used to treat inflammatory conditions) with food -- taking it on an empty stomach can result in ulcers. The drug may decrease your ability to fight infection, so stay away from people who are sick, and wash your hands often while taking the drug.

Never stop prednisone abruptly -- this could cause adrenal insufficiency (symptoms include weakness, nausea, fatigue and low blood pressure). The dose should be slowly decreased if you need to stop taking the drug. If you're having surgery or need emergency medical treatment, tell your caregivers you are taking (or have recently stopped) prednisone. Wear a medical alert bracelet in case you are unable to speak during a medical emergency.
To safely take the steroid prednisone, take it exactly as your doctor prescribes. Take this drug with food to reduce the chances that it will irritate your stomach and increase your risk of ulcers. Ask your doctor how much alcohol, if any, is safe while you are taking prednisone. Be sure your doctor knows about all other medicines and supplements you take, including herbal products like St. John's wort.

Give your doctor a complete medical history, since certain conditions may increase your risk for side effects. Taking steroids like prednisone can make you less able to fight off infection, so limit your exposure to people who are sick and wash your hands often. Tell your doctor if you think you may have been exposed to chicken pox or measles. Do not get any vaccinations without talking with your doctor first. Do not stop taking prednisone without talking with your doctor -- he or she may need to carefully taper your dose to avoid problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.