Children with asthma who take a commonly prescribed inhaled steroid grow up to be a half-inch shorter than their peers on average, a government-funded study reported .
The drug, budesonide, is marketed under several brand names, including Rhinocort and Pulmicort.
It is very effective at controlling serious asthma, which affects an estimated 7 million U.S. children and millions more adults. The authors of the study, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, do not recommend taking kids off the drug if they need it.
Asthma is the most common chronic illness among children, although it can affect people of any age.
About 10 to 15 percent of grade school children have or have had asthma. Asthma rates more than doubled between 1980 and 1995, and remain at historically high levels, although encouragingly, death rates from the condition have declined in recent years. About half of all young children diagnosed with asthma appear to outgrow it by adolescence, but these individuals still have sensitive airways and symptoms can reappear later in life.
Inhaled steroids, while effective, were found in a previous study to slow growth in children during the first years of use, but the long-term impact of inhaled steroids on height was unknown until now.
Still, the stunting effect doesn’t get worse over time, according to the study, and doctors can work with parents to reduce the dose of the drug as much as possible to minimize the effects.
Does your child take an inhaled steroid to treat asthma? If so, will these findings affect your course of treatment? Let us know in the comments .