Budesonide and formoterol

Sounds like 'bu-des-o-nide' and 'for-MOT-er-ol'

Easy-to-read medicine information about budesonide + formoterol – what is it, how to use budesonide + formoterol safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • This is a combination medicine. It contains a corticosteroid (budesonide)
    a bronchodilator (formoterol)
  • budesonide + eformoterol 
  • Symbicort® Turbuhaler
  • Vannair® Inhaler

What is budesonide + formoterol?

  • Budesonide and formoterol are mixed together in a turbuhaler or an inhaler (puffer).
  • The combination is used to treat the symptoms of asthma and to prevent them from recurring.
  • It is also used to treat the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary or airway disease
  • Budesonide works by preventing the swelling and irritation in the walls of the small air passages in the lungs. It belongs to a group of medicines known as inhaled corticosteroids. It is also called a preventer (because when used every day it prevents asthma attacks).
  • Formoterol works by relaxing and opening up the air passages and in that way makes breathing easier. It belongs to a group of medicines known as long-acting bronchodilators.


  • The dose of budesonide + formoterol will be different for different people, and varies depending on the type of  inhaler:
    • Symbicort
      • The usual dose is 1 or 2 inhalations once or twice daily.
      • If your asthma is temporarily worse, you may use 1 additional inhalation at a time, up to a maximum of 6 inhalations twice daily.
    • Vannair
      • The usual dose is 2 puffs once or twice daily.
      • If your asthma is temporarily worse, you may use 1 additional puff at a time, up to a maximum of  4 puffs twice daily.
  • Budesonide + formoterol can give immediate relief  if your asthma symptoms appear worse. However, if you notice that you need higher doses, more often, then contact your doctor.
  • Since asthma is a long-term condition, prevention with budesonide + formoterol is ongoing and it will need to be used every day for months or years.

How to use your Symbicort turbuhaler

  • Budesonide + formoterol is available as a dry powder in a device called a turbuhaler.
  • The turbuhaler device is breath activated, which means that it releases a dose of the powder, when you breath in.
  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using a turbuhaler.
  • Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will explain how to use your turbuhaler - the following steps are a guide:
    • Unscrew and remove the cap.
    • Hold the turbuhaler upright.
    • Twist the grip at the base of the turbuhaler as far as it will go.
    • Twist it back to its original position - listen for the click.
    • Put the mouthpiece to your lips and breath in steadily through the turbuhaler.
    • Remove the turbuhaler from the mouth.
    • Breathe out slowly through the nose.
    • Rinse your mouth with water after using your turbuhaler.


  • The turbuhaler has a little window under the mouthpiece. This is called the Empty Soon Indicator. When a RED mark appears at the top of the window, there are about 20 doses left.

How to use your Vannair inhaler

  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using an inhaler.
  • Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will explain how to use your inhaler - the following steps are a guide:
    • Remove the protective cap at the plastic bottom part of the puffer.
    • Put mouth over plastic bottom part of the puffer AND push down on the top metal part as you breathe in.
    • Inhale the medicine that comes out.
    • Hold breath for 10 seconds. Breathe out slowly.
    • Repeat the steps for the next puff.
    • Rinse your mouth with water and spit out after using your inhaler.


  • If your inhaler is new, it will need to be primed, by spraying 2 puffs into the atmosphere. If you have not used your inhaler for 3 days, you will need to re-prime by spraying one puff into the atmosphere.
  • If you find difficulty in using an inhaler, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about a spacer device, which can be attached to your inhaler. It may make using your inhaler easier.

What else do I need to know?

  • Use budesonide + formoterol every day. Do not stop using budesonide + formoterol, even if you feel better.
  • Try to use it at the same time each day, to help you to remember to use it regularly.
  • It is not harmful if you miss a dose of budesonide + formoterol. If you miss a dose, you can take it as soon as you remember, or if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take your next dose at the right time.

Learn more about inhalers - Asthma Foundation

Possible side effects

Like all medicines budesonide + formoterol can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted effects improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • A different taste in your mouth
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Fast heart rate
  • Feeling nervous, restless, agitated
  • Muscle cramps
  • These are quite common when you first start, and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • A very sore tongue or mouth, with white sores on the tongue, or in the mouth.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist
  • Allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets:

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: budesonide and formoterol

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 31 Jul 2014