Asthma Inhaler Side Effects
There has been a lot of recent interest in possible asthma inhaler side effects, especially for children. After all, asthma affects children far more frequently than adults (around 6.8 million US children suffer from this lung condition), and often need to take regular doses of medication throughout their formative years. Fortunately for the medical community and parents of asthmatic children, recent studies have returned some concrete answers on asthma treatment, growth patterns, and overall health.
The Findings on Asthma Inhalers and Growth Patterns
Research out of the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil and the University of Montreal in Canada has shown that inhaled steroid medication appears to affect growth, both in the first years of taking the medication, and possibly further into adulthood.
The published research included two systematic reviews: one that focused on how certain asthma inhalers impact growth rates compared with other drugs, and one that investigated dose levels and their impact on growth. The results confirm the suspicions that doctors and parents have had for some time: asthma medication does seem to affect growth, and the amount in each dose does make a difference.
Not all inhaled medication is to blame. In fact, the culprit is a specific type of inhaler, the corticosteroids known as “preventers” that aim to calm the airways and prevent more serious asthma symptoms. In the 25 trials that were examined, the children who used the preventer inhalers were, on average, about a quarter of an inch shorter than other children after one year.
Understanding How the Findings Affect your Child
Since corticosteroid inhalers are the most popular and reliable long-term asthma medication, these findings will surely affect many children. However, try to keep the results in perspective as you decide if and how to adjust your child’s asthma management:
- Growth suppression rates vary. There’s no guarantee that every child who takes steroid inhalers will grow less. Remember, the results are an average of all the participants, and given that the height difference is so small, it’s safe to assume that many children suffer little to no adverse effects when it comes to their growth.
- Restrictions in growth are likely temporary. Although growth rates seem to be affected in the first years of treatment, and may even carry into early adulthood, they don’t speed up. That is, the average half inch discrepancy after the first year doesn’t grow into an inch, two inches or half a foot as the years go on. In fact, many children catch up to average height with an adjustment to their medication dose, or simply with time.
- Asthma control is more important than height. In the grand scheme of things, a well-functioning respiratory system is far more important than a half inch of height. There is nothing to show that children on corticosteroids who suffer from a slight growth impediment suffer in any other physical or intellectual capacity. On the other hand, there is lots of evidence that long-term corticosteroid inhalers prevent asthma from interfering with daily life and development.