Respiratory Pharmacology: Corticosteroids and Solu-Medrol

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In this respiratory pharmacology review, we will be going into corticosteroids like methylprednisolone and prednisone.


Corticosteroids bring down inflammatory response that can be caused by numerous health issues. Anytime the body is ill or diseased there will be increased inflammation, which will result in decreased perfusion. Other than that, corticosteroids also reduce allergic reactions and itching.

Corticosteroids aid in decreasing inflammation for clients with the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Types of systemic inflammation like Lupus, Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic ailments like rheumatoid arthritis (joint inflammation)


Solu-Medrol is the brand name for methylprednisolone, a type of potent corticosteroid. Take note that methylprednisolone is the generic name. A generic name is the trade name given by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and government that pharmaceutical companies have to indicate in the medicine’s packet, box, and leaflet.

Spotting Corticosteroids

To easily remember corticosteroids, they are medications usually ending in:

  • “-lone”
  • “-one”

The primary examples are methylprednisolone and prednisone.

Before going into the pertinent details about corticosteroids, let’s go into quick anatomy and physiology regarding the natural source of corticosteroids inside the body.

The Adrenals

The body naturally produces corticosteroids as a mechanism to ward off stress. Located on top of the kidneys are two glands called the adrenals. The adrenal glands’ main function is to react to stress that causes inflammation, whether systemic or localized.

When the body gets stressed or irritated due to internal or external factors, free radicals are released into the system, compromising the immune system, prompting the inflammation. The adrenal glands will be activated to respond by releasing natural hormones that will decrease swelling.

Causes of Inflammation

When the adrenals are ineffective or insufficient, the body will experience systemic conditions like Cushing’s disease and Lupus. On the other hand, a hyper-inflamed respiratory tract can be caused by the following:

  • Chronic smoking
  • Toxin and smog inhalation

Though the adrenals try to eliminate the swelling by producing steroids, sometimes, they also need help, and that’s when methylprednisolone and prednisone come in.

Remember, Solu-Medrol is not only given for respiratory problems, but it is also given for rheumatoid arthritis or joint inflammation.

Client Teaching

So, there are three crucial corticosteroid essentials that you have to educate your clients with.

  1. It will increase blood sugar.

Corticosteroids tend to decrease insulin sensitivity on the blood cell level, messing up the mechanism of action. When this happens, blood sugar will shoot up. This teaching is important especially for diabetic clients who are already insulin-resistant because corticosteroids will further increase that resistance.

  1. It will increase the chances of infection.

Corticosteroids will bring down the immune system. Therefore, if the client has increased white blood cells because of the presence of infection, inform the client that the infection will be aggravated because the corticosteroids will bring down the immune system.

  1. Increased edema.

Clients on corticosteroids will hold sodium. Sodium attracts and retains water, resulting in weight gain.

So, that’s it for our corticosteroids review. For more topics related to respiratory pharmacology and nursing in general, drop by Simple Nursing’s website and YouTube channel.