Asthma inhalers can possibly stunt growth of children
ADULTS who were prescribed common asthma inhalers while growing up are likely to be shorter than they might have been.
Data compiled from dozens of trials, involving nearly 9,000 children, found that inhalers suppress normal growth rates by around a fifth of an inch in the first year they are taken, before the impact tails off in subsequent years.
Canadian and Brazilian researchers said the stunted growth rate was concerning and advised doctors to prescribe the lowest dose possible. But they said that inhalers were still beneficial because they prevent fatal asthma attacks.
"The evidence we reviewed suggests that children treated daily with inhaled corticosteroids may grow approximately half a centimetre less during the first year of treatment," said Dr Linjie Zhang of the Federal University of Rio Grande, Brazil, the lead author of the review.
"But this effect is less pronounced in subsequent years, is not cumulative, and seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs."
Health experts and asthma charities said that a fifth of an inch was a "small price to pay" for medicine which could save a child's life.
Thousands of children are treated each year for asthma with inhaled corticosteroids prescribed as the first line of treatment.
Figures from the Asthma Society of Ireland show that Ireland has the fourth-highest incidence of asthma in the world, with 470,000 people here living with the condition. More than 300,000 of these use inhalers.
They are the most effective drugs for controlling asthma and are known to reduce deaths, hospital visits and attacks, as well as improving quality of life.
Commonly prescribed corticosteroids include beclomethasone, fluticasone, budesonide, ciclesonide and mometasone.
"We recommend that the minimal effective dose be used in children with asthma until further data on doses becomes available," said co-author Dr Francine Ducharme of the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Montreal.
Medical experts pointed out that the effect was small and said it was "vital" that parents did not stop giving inhalers to their children.
"Many may consider this a risk worth taking compared to the alternative which is poorly controlled, and therefore potentially life threatening, asthma," said Jon Ayres, Professor of Environmental and Respiratory Medicine at the University of Birmingham. (©Daily Telegraph, London)