Asthma inhalers restrict children’s growth

“Children who use inhalable steroids for asthma grow slower than their peers in the first year of taking the medication,” The Guardian reports. While this is an accurate report of the science, the effect found by researchers was small. On average, a reduction of around half a centimetre per year was seen, compared to children taking a placebo or other asthma medication.

The researchers were studying the effects of inhaled corticosteroids. These are known as “preventers” – the brown inhalers that deliver a dose of steroids to the airways reducing inflammation, to prevent symptoms.

After pooling the results of 25 trials, they found a small but significant link between the use of preventer inhalers and restricted childhood growth, which was estimated to be an average reduction of 0.48cm (or 0.19in).

The authors recommend that these drugs should be prescribed at the “lowest effective dose” and that the growth rate of children treated with inhaled corticosteroids should be monitored, as they will affect each child differently.

However, as the authors point out, the small effect on growth is a minor risk compared to the proven benefits of these drugs in controlling asthma, and ensuring children’s lungs grow to their full capacity.

Untreated childhood asthma is much more likely to have a harmful effect on a child’s development than a small reduction in growth.

It is therefore important that parents ensure their children use their inhalers as advised by their doctor.

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