Pulmicort to prevent asthma

Pulmicort is also called budesonide

Key points about Pulmicort inhalers

  • Pulmicort® is used to prevent asthma.
  • Pulmicort® contains the medicine budesonide.
  • Find out how to use it safely and possible side effects.
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Pulmicort® is used to prevent asthma.

It's also called a preventer because when it's used every day it prevents asthma attacks. Pulmicort works by preventing the swelling and irritation in the walls of the small air passages in your lungs. It belongs to a group of medicines known as corticosteroids.

Note: Pulmicort is used for some people with COVID-19 infection.

Using a Turbuhaler® device enables the medicine to go straight into your airways when you breathe in. This means that your airways and lungs are treated, but very little of the medicine gets into the rest of your body.

Pulmicort does not give immediate relief from an asthma attack

If you need quick relief from asthma symptoms or breathing problems, use your ‘reliever’ medicine, eg, salbutamol or terbutaline.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pulmicort Turbuhaler comes in 3 different strengths (100 mcg, 200 mcg and 400 mcg).

  • The dose of Pulmicort will be different for different people depending on the severity of your symptoms and the strength of your turbuhaler.
  • The usual dose is 1 or 2 puffs inhaled twice a day.
  • Always take your Pulmicort exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.
  • Missed doses: If you miss a dose, you can take it as soon as you remember. But if it's nearly time for your next dose, just take your next dose at the right time.

To get the most benefit, it's important to use the correct technique. Ask your healthcare provider to show you how to use your inhaler. Even if you've been shown before, ask your healthcare provider to explain how to use your inhaler if you still have any questions. 

The video below provides some guidance on how to use a Turbuhaler® device. The Turbuhaler is the name of the device used to deliver the medicine to your lungs and airways. There are different names for each Turbuhaler depending on the medicines inside the device.

Your Turbuhaler may be a different colour to the one in the video below. It's important to know the name and colour of your Turbuhaler,  eg, Pulmicort®, Bricanyl®, Oxis® or Symbicort®. Read more about understanding your medicines.

Video: How to use a Turbuhaler device

(Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ & Auckland District Health Board, 2018)

Using a Turbuhaler device

  • Open: Unscrew and remove the cap. Hold the Turbuhaler upright.
  • Load the dose: Twist the base anticlockwise and then back in the other direction until you hear a click. The Turbuhaler is now loaded with 1 dose of medicine.
  • Breathe out: Breathe out, away from the Turbuhaler. Don't blow directly into the Turbuhaler.
  • Inhale your dose: Place the mouth piece in your mouth and form a seal with your lips. Breathe in deeply. Remove the Turbuhaler and hold your breath for up to 10 seconds.
  • Close: Replace the cap and twist until it's on properly.

Here are some things to know when you're using a Pulmicort Turbuhaler. Other things may be important as well, so ask your healthcare provider what you should know about.

  • Keep using your Pulmicort every day. Don't stop using Pulmicort, even if you feel better. Since asthma is a long-term condition, prevention with Pulmicort is ongoing and it will need to be used every day for months or years.
  • Try to use Pulmicort at the same time each day, to help you to remember to use it regularly.
  • Pulmicort can cause a sore throat and hoarse voice – rinse your mouth after each use to prevent this.
  • Other medicines: Pulmicort interacts with some medications, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting Pulmicort and before starting any new products.
  • Cleaning: Wipe the mouthpiece with a clean dry tissue regularly, at least once a week. Don't use water or liquids when cleaning the mouthpiece or any part of the turbuhaler.
  • Storage: Keep your turbuhaler in a cool, dry place with the cover firmly in place. Don't store it in the bathroom or near a sink. Keep the cap on when you're not using it. The device may clog up if you breathe out through it, dribble into it or keep it an place where there's high humidity (moisture in the air) with the cap off or unsealed.

There's a window under the mouthpiece of the Pulmicort Turbuhaler called a dose indicator window. You will need to check regularly to see if a red mark has appeared in the window. 

  • When the red mark appears at the top of the window, there are approximately 20 doses (inhalations) of medicine remaining. Now's the time to get your next Pulmicort Turbuhaler.
  • When the red mark reaches the bottom of the window, your Pulmicort Turbuhaler will no longer deliver the correct amount of medicine and should be discarded.

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

Inhaled steroids usually have fewer and milder side effects than when taken as tablets. However, using high doses of inhaled steroids over long periods can increase your risk of side effects. Learn more about taking steroids long term

Side effects What should I do?
  • Change in voice (hoarse voice)
  • Different taste in your mouth
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Cough 
  • Rinse your mouth after each use.
  • Tell your doctor if these bother you.
  • Signs of oral thrush (a fungal infection in the mouth) such as a very sore tongue, throat or mouth, with white sores on the tongue, or in the mouth.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist  
  • Restless, feeling nervous, having mood changes and problems sleeping.
  • Tell your doctor or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 
  • Blurred vision or changes to your eyesight
  • Tell your doctor or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116

Read more about medicines and side effects and reporting a reaction that you think might be a side effect.

Pulmicort Turbuhaler(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets
Budesonide (for inhalation)(external link) NZ Formulary


  1. Budesonide (for inhalation)(external link) NZ Formulary
  2. Position statement on budesonide use Therapeutic Technical Advisory Group, NZ, April 2022

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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