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How Does Flovent Work?

Wednesday 17 June 2020
Chronic Lung Disorders

Table of Contents


I. What is Flovent?

a. Flovent HFA vs. Flovent Diskus

II. Flovent and Asthma

III. Can I Use Flovent for an Asthma Attack?

IV. Flovent and COPD

V. Flovent Side Effects


Chronic lung disorders can significantly impact your everyday life. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in 13 people have asthma in the United States, which accounts for over 25 million people. [1] Along with asthma, the American Lung Association estimates that over 24 million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in the U.S. Losing the ability to breathe properly can be a terrifying and life-altering phenomenon.

Luckily, there are medications like Flovent HFA that can improve your quality of life and ease symptoms of chronic lung disorders (link to 4 types of chronic respiratory disorders). Read on to learn more about Flovent and the disorders that can be improved with its use. [2] 

What is Flovent?

Flovent HFA is a prophylactic therapy used to prevent symptoms of chronic lung disorders. Flovent contains fluticasone, which belongs to a family of medications known as corticosteroids. This medicine is made to be taken every day to decrease the number and severity of asthma attacks. Corticosteroids affect the hormones in the body that are produced naturally in the adrenal glands (glands above your kidneys). When you take corticosteroids, your hormone levels exceed normal levels, which suppresses inflammation. [3] 

This medication can be used for children over four years old, adolescents over 12, and adults. Children are typically prescribed the lowest possible dose, and their growth is monitored during treatment. If you use an emergency inhaler more than twice a week, a long-acting drug like Flovent could improve your quality of life. [4]

two inhalers on a white surface

a. Flovent HFA vs. Flovent Diskus

Two different types of Flovent are typically prescribed. Flovent HFA contains an aerosolized form of fluticasone and is taken through a metered-dose inhaler. These inhalers use an aerosolized propellant, which delivers the drug into the lungs. Your doctor must instruct you on how to use the inhaler. Metered-dose inhalers must be primed before use. Flovent HFA has a 12-month shelf life.

Flovent Diskus is also an inhaled version of fluticasone. It is a powder that does not need propellant to get into the lungs. This version does not require priming, and it does not clog as regularly. This version of Flovent must be used six weeks to two months after opening. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate variety of Flovent based on your experience with inhalers and how comfortable you are with this new medication. [4] 

Flovent and Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects a person’s ability to breathe. It can be triggered by several things, including viruses, exercise, emotional stress, and other factors. Asthma occurs when the inside walls of the airways (bronchial tubes) become swollen and inflamed. When the airways become inflamed, they produce extra mucus. This extra mucus makes breathing difficult and causes shortness of breath.

Symptoms of asthma can include:

  • Wheezing when exhaling
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Worsened wheezing attacks caused by the cold or flu [5]

a skeleton displaying the ribs and spine

Asthma cannot be cured, but the severity can range from a minor inconvenience to major interferences with your daily activities. If your asthma is not controlled with medications like Flovent, it can lead to life-threatening events like an asthma attack. Asthma symptoms can change over time, so it is essential to pay attention to any changes in your condition.

Everyone experiences asthma for different reasons, but it is usually due to environmental and genetic factors. Triggers for asthma may include:

  • Physical activity
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Respiratory infections
  • Pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander [6]

Flovent can be beneficial to asthma because of its anti-inflammatory qualities. The inflammation of the airways can be improved by taking Flovent every day. When taken regularly, the rate of asthma attacks can be reduced and your symptoms can remain under control.

Can I Use Flovent for an Asthma Attack?

No. It is a common misconception that all inhalers can immediately treat symptoms of breathlessness. Flovent (both HFA and Diskus) are long-term inhalers that only work if taken regularly. If you are experiencing an asthma attack, Flovent will not stop an attack. Because of this, your doctor will typically prescribe a long-term inhaler as well as an emergency inhaler. Emergency inhalers will relieve symptoms immediately.

Flovent will decrease the number of asthma episodes, but it may increase the chance of a severe asthma attack if they do occur. It is vital to remember that Flovent will not work immediately and contact your doctor if your emergency inhaler also does not relieve symptoms. Your doctor should discuss the steps to take if you do experience asthma attack symptoms. Symptoms of an asthma attack are typically more severe than minor asthma symptoms. [7]

a diagram comparing a normal airway to an airway affected by asthma

Asthma attack symptoms can include:

  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Very rapid breathing
  • Coughing that won’t stop
  • Severe wheezing
  • Feelings of panic or anxiety
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles [8] 

Flovent and COPD

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder characterizes a group of lung diseases. Around 30 million people in the United States have COPD. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common forms of COPD. Emphysema is a disease that slowly destroys air sacs in your lungs, which can affect outward airflow. Bronchitis is also an unpleasant condition that involves inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes. Tobacco smoking is the number one cause of COPD, and it can progress to deadly respiratory infections and heart problems if left untreated.

Symptoms of COPD can include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough
  • Needing to clear your throat often
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent colds or respiratory infections [9]

Inflammation is a large part of COPD, so synthetic corticosteroids like Flovent can be beneficial in treating COPD symptoms. When used correctly, Flovent can relieve chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. Because COPD is typically caused by external and lifestyle factors, you may need to break certain habits (like smoking) to improve your COPD. [10]

lungs made out of broccoli and cigarettes 

Flovent Side Effects

Inhaled corticosteroids like Flovent do not typically have many side effects. This drug should be inhaled orally, and you should follow all directions given by your doctor. Some common side effects of Flovent HFA include:

  • Throat irritation
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sinus pain
  • Cough
  • Deepened voice
  • White patches/sores on the inside of your mouth
  • Mouth, nose, or throat dryness [7]

The recommended starting dose for adults and children over 12 years of age is 88-440 mcg twice a day. For younger, pediatric, patients the dose is typically 88 mcg a day. Your doctor will let you know the right dose for you. If you miss a dose of Flovent, make sure to take it as soon as possible. In rare cases, you may experience serious side effects when taking this medication. Tell your doctor if you experience the following while taking Flovent:

  • Vision problems
  • Bone pain
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Signs of infections (fever, chills, sore throat)
  • Mental or mood changes [11]

Asthma and COPD symptoms may begin to improve around two weeks after you begin using Flovent. If your symptoms do not improve after two weeks, you may want to contact your doctor to make sure that you are taking your medication properly.

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.