Steroids have been widely used to help children and adults battle asthma and allergies. A new study says, however, that young children given inhaled asthma medication or steroids before the age of two may end up shorter than their peers in later life.
Inhaled steroids are known to slow growth in children especially during their first years of use. However, the researchers found out that the long-term impact of its usage could actually stunt growth when they grow up.
The study, presented at the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology conference in Barcelona, Spain, analyzed data from 12,000 infants from Finland. The researchers discovered that on average, kids who inhaled corticosteroids for a long time showed signs of stunted growth, BBC News reported.
The importance of using these types of medicines in infants and children is vital. "Previously, the impact of corticosteroids on growth was looked at in older children and was thought to alter growth only temporarily," lead researcher Antti Saari, from the University of Eastern Finland, in a statement as reported by WebMD.
He added, "Our research shows a link between long-term treatment [with] ICS during infancy and stunted growth at or after the age of 2 in otherwise healthy children."
They added that on an average, there is a 3 cm of decreased height when they grow into adults. However, this is relatively a minor effect of the medicine and they reiterated the importance of continuing medicines to prevent asthma attacks. They just want to recommend that doctors should think twice when prescribing the medicine to infants or children determining who really needs it from those who do not.
Meanwhile, Dr. Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said, "Inhaled corticosteroids were crucial for reducing and controlling asthma symptoms and the impact on height was relatively minor."
She added, as reported by BBC News, "No parent should stop their children taking these life-saving medicines, because a slight reduction in growth is a small price to pay for medicines which may save your child's life."