Do Inhaled Steroids for Asthma Harm More Than They Help?

While inhaled steroids can reduce inflammation, improve airway function, decrease the amount of asthma medication required, and prevent asthma flare-ups, we’ve known for some time that these strong medicines also slow children’s rate of growth in height. What we have not known is whether these children eventually reach normal adult height or end up shorter.

The October 12, 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine includes a study that followed children over an average of 9 years. Those treated daily with an inhaled steroid attained normal adult height — great news!

From everything we know, judicious use of inhaled steroids seems to be a great choice for children whose asthma is not controlled by gentler preventive medicines (such as cromolyn).

I’d still love to see someone study the every-other-day use of inhaled steroids to see if this retained the benefits of daily use, but decreased the side effects even further.

Published on: October 13, 2000
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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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