The smallest of things can set off an allergy; be it tiny particles of pollen, dust, pet hair or mold. Although these elements are barely visible to the naked eye, they most definitely make their presence known to an allergy sufferer in the form of itchy, watery eyes; a runny, stuffy nose; and a ceaseless sneeze – a condition known as allergic rhinitis.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those unfortunate 50 million people that suffer from allergies in the United States, and you can blame your overactive immune system for it. Anytime your body comes into contact with the said allergen, your immune system mistakenly thinks it is harmful and begins to make antibodies to attack it, thereby causing an inflammatory response.
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Thankfully, there are many medications available on the market to help relieve those irritating symptoms, whether you suffer from them seasonally or all year round. One such drug is fluticasone; a corticosteroid, which basically mimics a substance that your body makes naturally in order to block the effects of the allergen and essentially calm the allergic reaction.
But no drug is free from side-effects, and fluticasone has its fair share. While you may or may not experience all of them or any at all, it’s good to be in the know about any unintended results the drug can produce, because being savvy about side-effects can not only keep you safe, but it can also rule out the prospect of any unpleasant surprises later down the line.
So without further ado, let’s set the record straight on some of the most common questions people have about the side-effects of fluticasone.
Can fluticasone cause weight gain?
Weight gain isn’t a typical side-effect of fluticasone; with that said, long-term use of the drug in high doses can cause you to put on weight, particularly in your face, upper back and torso – this risk is higher with the inhalation form than with oral or nasal versions.
It is thought that an increase in cortisol production (that’s the stress hormone) is responsible for any weight gain from this drug. So if you’ve been taking the medication for more than a few months and have noticed a rise in the number on your scales, it’s best to let your doctor know (given, of course, that there is no other logical reason for your weight gain).
Can fluticasone cause insomnia?
Insomnia isn’t a listed side-effect of fluticasone but there is mounting anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise. Many users have reported difficulty sleeping within the first week of taking the medication, particularly those who haven’t experienced such problems in the past.
This issue can be put down to two culprits that are commonly found in allergy medications: phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. These ingredients can exhaust the adrenal glands (the system that is supposed to regulate stress and help you relax and sleep), which can produce a whole bunch of over-stimulating effects on the body, such as insomnia, anxiety, an increased heart rate, and muscle weakness; coincidentally, they may also be responsible for the abovementioned weight gain.
It may be worth asking your doctor to prescribe a suitable alternative, or possibly take your dose earlier in the day to deal with this particular side-effect.
Can fluticasone cause a dry mouth?
Fluticasone can cause a dry mouth, although it is not currently known how prevalent this is amongst users (safe to say, very rare). Again, this side-effect is associated with the inhaled version of the medication and does usually resolve as your body adjusts to it. If you do experience a dry mouth, there’s no need to worry as it won’t have any severe implications on your health; however, you could always consult your doctor if the symptom does become particularly bothersome and a glass of water just isn’t cutting it.
Can fluticasone cause thrush?
A fungus known as yeast is naturally found on various parts of the body including the mouth, nose, skin, underarms, and genitals. In moderate amounts, yeast is harmless and goes unnoticed, but certain factors can trigger a yeast overgrowth – fluticasone being one of them – resulting in symptoms like intense itching and irritation in the mouth, nose or throat, along with white patches, and pain whilst eating or swallowing.
As uncomfortable as this side-effect may be, it isn’t dangerous and does usually go away over time, so it’s best to continue using it for your allergy. However, for some users the effects can become especially troublesome, and if so; inform your doctor as soon as possible.
Can fluticasone cause acid reflux?
Acid reflux is known to cause nasal congestion, which often prompts some people to use fluticasone to treat the issue. However, some long-term users of inhaled fluticasone have reported suffering from acid reflux, as well as other digestive issues like nausea and vomiting, suggesting that there is a possibility that the two may be linked.
Although acid reflux isn’t a listed side-effect of the medication, many users have reported relief from this symptom once they discontinued use. So if you’re suffering from recurrent acid reflux and unsure about what may be causing it, speak with your doctor about postponing the medication for a while and see if your symptoms improve.
Are there any other side-effects of fluticasone I should know about?
Very small amounts of fluticasone are actually absorbed into the body, so it isn’t likely to produce any serious or harmful side-effects. Side-effects of the medication vary based on the type you use (inhaled, nasal, or topical), but the most common ones (affecting around 1 in 100 people) include:
- An unpleasant taste or smell
- A dry or sore nose
- Throat irritation or hoarseness
- Nausea or vomiting
- A runny nose
- A cough
- Nose bleeds
It’s best to carry on taking fluticasone if you experience any of these side-effects, but if they are bothering you and/or don’t seem to be disappearing, always speak with your doctor.
Less common but more serious side-effects of fluticasone (affecting around 1 in 10,000 people) include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Wounds or blisters on the inside of the nose
- Thick nasal discharge
- Slow-healing wounds
- Tiredness or muscle weakness
- A tear in the nasal cartilage
- Changes in eyesight, such as blurred vision or a cloudy lens
These signs are more likely to appear in those that have been using fluticasone in high doses for an extended period of time. If you are affected by any of these side-effects, inform your doctor immediately.
While fluticasone can work wonders for treating seasonal or year-round allergies, it is always a good idea to learn about its associated side-effects to determine whether these risks outweigh its benefits.
Of course, for some users, taking this medication may be a breeze, while others may be better off using a suitable alternative; ultimately, it all depends on the dose, the length of time you take it, and individual reactions, as well as interactions with other medications you’re taking.
If you do experience any of the side-effects mentioned in this article, don’t fret as they’re likely to go away of their own accord, but if they become particularly persistent and problematic, ask your doctor about other medications that can help provide relief from your allergies.
- NHS 2020, Fluticasone Nasal Spray and Drops, viewed 8th September 2020, www.nhs.uk/medicines/fluticasone-nasal-spray-and-drops/
- Web MD 2019, Fluticasone Propionate Spray, Suspension, viewed 8th September 2020, https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-77986-245/fluticasone-propionate-nasal/fluticasone-spray-nasal/details