The study, which involved 12,000 infants from Finland, found a statistically significant link between use of inhaled corticosteroids and stunted growth later on. Previous studies also revealed a link between the two.
Study authors caution that steroids should not be used in children before the age of two. But doctors argue that inhaled corticosteroids are very effective in reining in asthma and decreasing the number of hospitalizations in preschoolers.
About one in 11 children live with asthma, a recent report shows. Clinicians usually prescribe inhalers containing corticosteroids to treat the condition in both children and adults. But some patients reported a series of side-effects. Yet, the latest study adds one more side-effect to the list – stunted growth.
Doctors should monitor infants that use steroid-based inhalers and measure their height and weight on a regular basis. Dr Antti Saari, senior researcher involved in the study, reported that his team found that infants who used the inhalers before they were 2 years old could be shorter by 3 cm in their adult years.
The research team said that they reached that conclusion from the data they gathered on infants’ parents related to height and weight.
“It is important that doctors think twice whether these steroids are needed or not in this age group,”
Jonathan Grigg, a researcher who was not involved in the study and medical advisor for British Lung Foundation, believes that treating infants with asthma is not easy. He explained that there isn’t enough research on which children are more resilient to steroid treatment.
Most preschool children grow out of the disease and they don’t require more medications, Dr. Grigg who is also a respiratory medicine at Queen Mary University London, added. So, a larger study should clear the uncertainties.
Dr Samantha Walker, chief of the Asthma UK, thinks that the recently found side-effect of inhaled asthma medications is ‘relatively minor.’ A slight loss in height later on is a small price to pay for the drugs that may prove life-saving for one’s children. Dr. Walker, who was not involved in the study, advises parents not to halt the use of inhaled corticosteroids in their infants.
In the U.S. alone, asthma affects about 3 million people every year. The disease does not yet have a cure, but its symptoms can be alleviated. Because the condition can evolve in time, asthma patients are advised to consult their doctors whenever they want to switch treatment.
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