Asthma, Steroids, Growth, and Height

If children take standard amounts of inhaled steroids to prevent asthma flare-ups, do they end up shorter than their peers?

We know that conventional doses of inhaled steroids can slow the rate of growth in children, but it turns out that there is little if any effect on their eventual adult height, according to a comprehensive analysis of the available long-term evidence published in the January 2004 Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

A conventional dose would be up to 400 micrograms per day of beclomethasone, or the equivalent. Untreated moderate asthma delays puberty by about 1 year 4 months. Treatment with inhaled steroids results in children.s achieving their predicted heights . no different from non-asthmatics. The study leaves open the possibility that severe asthma might decrease adult height, but by no more than ½ inch. The long-term benefits of using inhaled steroids to control asthma appear to significantly outweigh the long-term side effects. Children with asthma deserve a proactive treatment plan to reduce their flare-ups and to minimize the effect of their asthma on their lives.

Published on: February 02, 2004
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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