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Sodium cromoglicate is a type of preventer inhaler for asthma.

Use it regularly throughout the day - using it at mealtimes and bedtime can help you to remember.

It will not help an asthma attack that has already started. Your doctor will prescribe another inhaler for you to use for this.

Type of medicineAn anti-asthma medicine
Used forTo prevent asthma symptoms (in adults and in children aged over 5 years)
Also calledCromolyn sodium (in US); Intal®
Available asInhaler

Asthma is a common condition caused by inflammation in the airways. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways, and causes them to constrict. This causes your airways to narrow. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of your lungs. This causes the typical symptoms of wheeze, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. The inflammation also causes the lining of your airways to make extra mucus which causes coughing.

Sodium cromoglicate is a type of preventer inhaler. It is thought to work by reducing the release of some chemicals which cause inflammation. The medicine inside the inhaler goes straight into your airways when you breathe in. This means that your airways and lungs are treated, but little of the medicine gets into the rest of your body. To prevent asthma symptoms from developing, you must use it regularly, every day.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you (or your child) start using the inhaler, it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breastfeeding.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about sodium cromoglicate, diagrams to remind you how to use the inhaler, and a list of any side-effects which you may experience.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and make sure you (or your child) know how to use the inhaler properly. If you are unsure about this, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist to show you what to do.
  • Sodium cromoglicate needs to be used regularly in order to have an effect. The usual starting dose is two puffs of the inhaler, four times daily. Some people may be advised by their doctors to use one puff before exercise in order to prevent exercise-induced symptoms. Your doctor will tell you what dose is right for you, and this information will be printed on the label of the inhaler to remind you.
  • Try to use the inhaler at the same times of day, each day. If you forget, use it as soon as you remember, but do not double up a dose.
  • Do not stop using the inhaler suddenly, as this can cause your asthma symptoms to recur. Your doctor will ask you to reduce your dose gradually if it becomes necessary to stop the treatment.
  • If, after using the inhaler for the first time, your breathing becomes worse or you suddenly start to wheeze, do not use the inhaler again and let your doctor know straightaway. Your doctor will want to change the inhaler to one more suited to you.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor and asthma clinic. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis and ensure that the inhaler is of benefit. If at any time you find that your asthma symptoms are getting worse or that you need to use a reliever inhaler more regularly, contact your doctor or nurse for advice straightaway.
  • Sodium cromoglicate is not a reliever; it does not work quickly enough to relieve an asthma attack that has already started. Your doctor will prescribe another inhaler for you to use if you get an attack - for example, a salbutamol or terbutaline inhaler.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking causes severe irritation and damage to the lungs. It will make your condition worse and will reduce the beneficial effects of your treatment.
  • It is helpful to remember the colour of your inhaler and the brand name. This might be important if you need to see a doctor who does not have your medical records (such as if you are on holiday or if it is outside the normal opening hours of your GP surgery).

Along with their useful effects, inhalers can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with sodium cromoglicate. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your inhaler. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common sodium cromoglicate inhaler side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Mild throat irritation, coughTry brushing your teeth or rinsing out your mouth with water after using the inhaler. Sucking sugar-free sweets can help relieve coughing, but if this becomes troublesome, you should let your doctor know
HeadacheDrink plenty of water and ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headaches continue, let your doctor know
Sneezing, a runny or blocked noseThis is usually mild and soon passes

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the inhaler, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have had an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

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Further reading and references