A group of British and Finnish researchers learned that of the 12,000 infants monitored in the study, those who routinely inhaled corticosteroids before the age of two didn’t reach an optimal height later in life.
Past studies also revealed an association between the medications and suppressed growth in preschoolers. Study authors said that the new findings suggest steroids are not the most inspired option to treat asthma in small children.
On the other hand, the asthma medications were effective in reining in asthma symptoms and significantly decreased asthma-related hospital visits.
The new findings were discussed at the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology annual meeting.
According to the study’s background information, one in 11 children is diagnosed with asthma. Corticosteroids in inhalers can help the relief of asthma symptoms in both adults and children, but there are side-effects that some patients report.
Study authors recommend that all GPs measure their little patients’ height and weight every year, especially when the patients take inhaled steroids to control asthma.
Dr Antti Saari of the University of Eastern Finland and senior researcher involved in the study, explained that his team learned that the children were stunted by comparing their height to that of their parents. They made calculations on how much these children should grow, but found that those who took asthma medicines were 3 cm shorter than researchers’ estimations.
“It is important that doctors think twice whether these steroids are needed or not in this age group,”
added Dr. Saari.
Jonathan Grigg, of the British Lung Foundation, said that he learned from his experience as pediatrician that treating wheezing infants is not an easy task. He explained that many children eventually grow out of the disease and do not need medications later on.
But learning which pre-school children responded well to inhaled steroids and which did not is challenging even for experienced health professionals. Dr. Grigg believes that a larger study on preschoolers needs to be conducted to get to the bottom of it.
Dr Samantha Walker, head of Asthma UK’s research division, believes that the benefits of asthma medications in infants offset the drawbacks including stunted growth which Dr. Walker viewed it as a ‘relatively minor’ side-effect.
She added that parents should not prevent their children from taking the life-saving drugs since slight stunted growth was a ‘small price’ to pay to keep children healthy.
Image Source: Flickr
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