BMA Concise Guide to Medicine & Drugs

Sodium Cromoglicate

Brand names Hay-Crom, Intal, Nalcrom, Opticrom, Rynacrom, Vividrin, and others

Used in the following combined preparations None


Drug group Anti-allergy drug

Overdose danger rating Low

Dependence rating Low

Prescription needed No (some preparations)

Available as generic Yes


Sodium cromoglicate, introduced in the 1970s, is used primarily to prevent asthma and allergic conditions.

When taken by inhaler as a powder (Spinhaler) or spray, it is commonly used to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, and is also effective in helping to prevent attacks induced by exercise or cold air. The drug has a slow onset of action, and it may be up to six weeks before its full antiasthmatic effect is felt. It is not effective for the relief of an asthma attack.

Sodium cromoglicate is also given as eye drops to prevent or treat allergic conjunctivitis. Taken as a nasal spray, it is used to prevent or treat allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It is also given, in the form of capsules, for food allergy.

Side effects are mild. Coughing and wheezing occurring on inhalation of the drug may be prevented by using a sympathomimetic bronchodilator first. Hoarseness and throat irritation can be avoided by rinsing the mouth with water after inhalation.


Follow instructions on the label. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

How taken/used Capsules, inhaler (various types), eye drops, nasal spray.

Frequency and timing of doses Capsules 4 x daily before meals, swallowed whole or dissolved in water. Inhaler, nasal spray 4–6 x daily. Eye preparations 4 x daily (drops).

Adult dosage range 800mg daily (capsules); as directed (inhaler); apply to each nostril as directed (nasal spray); 1–2 drops in each eye per dose (eye drops).

Onset of effect Varies with dosage, form, and condition being treated. Eye conditions and allergic rhinitis may respond after a few days’ treatment with drops, while asthma and chronic allergic rhinitis may take 2–6 weeks to show improvement.

Duration of action 4–6 hours. Some effect persists for several days after treatment is stopped.

Diet advice Capsules: you may be advised to avoid certain foods. Follow your doctor’s advice.

Storage Keep in original container at room temperature out of the reach of children. Protect from light.

Missed dose Take as soon as you remember. If your next dose is due within 2 hours, take a single dose now and skip the next.

Stopping the drug Do not stop the drug without consulting your doctor; symptoms may recur.

Exceeding the dose An occasional unintentional extra dose is unlikely to be a cause for concern. But if you notice any unusual symptoms, or if a large overdose has been taken, notify your doctor.


Coughing and hoarseness are common with inhalation of sodium cromoglicate, and the nasal spray often causes sneezing. These symptoms usually diminish with continued use. More rarely, headache, dizziness, wheezing, or breathlessness may occur; discuss with your doctor if you develop wheezing or breathlessness or if headache or dizziness are severe. The capsules may rarely cause nausea, vomiting, joint pain, or a rash. If any of these occur, consult your doctor, promptly in the case of a rash. Sodium cromoglicate eye drops may cause temporary burning or stinging of the eyes.


None known.


Be sure to tell your doctor if:

· You are taking other medicines.

Pregnancy No evidence of risk.

Breast-feeding It is not known whether the drug passes into the breast milk. Discuss with your doctor.

Infants and children Reduced dose necessary.

Over 60 No special problems.

Driving and hazardous work No known problems.

Alcohol No known problems.


No problems expected.