Prednisone

Sounds like 'PRED-ni-sone'

Easy-to-read medicine information about prednisone – what it is, how to take prednisone safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as corticosteroids
  • Apo-Prednisone®
  • Prednisone®

What is prednisone?

  • Prednisone is a medicine used to treat or prevent many conditions associated with inflammation, such as asthma, COPD, and gout.
  • It is in a class of medicines known as corticosteroids, which is similar to the steroid hormones your body naturally makes. Prednisone works by calming the immune system.

Dose

  • The dose of prednisone will be different for different people.
  • Always take your prednisone exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much prednisone to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take prednisone

  • Swallow the whole tablet with food or after food with a full glass of water.
  • Prednisone is best taken in the morning.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol while you are taking prednisone — it can cause stomach problems.
  • If you forget to take your tablet, take it as soon as you remember. But, if it is nearly time for your next tablet, just take the next tablet at the right time. Do not take double the amount of tablets.
  • Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly unless told to by your doctor.
  • Often you will be given a tapering dose meaning you take a lower dose every few days or weeks.

Special instructions

  • It is important to tell any health professional taking care of you that you are taking prednisone.
  • If you take prednisone for a long time ask your pharmacist for a 'corticosteroid treatment card' that you should carry with you at all times. 
  • Taking prednisone for a long time can increase your risk of all types of infections. Tell your doctor if you come into contact with someone who has a contagious illness such as chickenpox or measles, or feel unwell.  
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breast-feeding. 
  • Due to the lowering of the immune system, vaccination (immunisations) with 'live vaccines' should be postponed until at least 3 months after high-dose corticosteroids have been stopped. 

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, prednisone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Take prednisone in the morning or at least 3 hours before bed time
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness, feeling tired
  • These are quite common when you first start taking prednisone, and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Changes in mood or behaviour
  • Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, bad dreams


  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Problems with your stomach such as stomach pain, blood in your stool, or dark coloured stool
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

  • Prednisone interacts with a number of medications and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting prednisone or before starting any new medicines. 
  • Prednisone also affects many vaccinations 

Learn more

The following links provide further information on prednisone.

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: prednisone

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Editorial team Last reviewed: 30 Sep 2015