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Do Asthma Inhalers Stunt Growth In Children?

Researchers say asthma inhalers might slightly stunt growth in children. Still, they say the benefits greatly outweigh this effect.
Posted at 7:28 AM, Jul 17, 2014

Inhalers are an important long-term treatment for those diagnosed with asthma, especially children. But according to new reports, inhalers might actually be stunting kids' growth. (Via NIAID / CC BY 2.0)

Researchers have tried to observe the effects of inhalers on growth before but either discovered only minimal effects or didn't monitor growth regularly over time. (Via KDKA, The New York Times, European Respiratory Journal)

But in two recent studies, researchers looked at the trials of about 9,000 children with mild to moderate asthma. Some of those children were given inhaled corticosteroids, and some were given either placebos or nonsteroidal treatments.

After a year, those who were treated with the corticosteroids had an average growth rate that was half a centimeter, or about 0.2 inches, less than the control group's rate of 6-9 centimeters per year. (Via The Cochrane Library)

In fact, Medical News Today says those who received lower doses of inhaled corticosteroids had an average growth rate of only a quarter centimeter less than the rate of the control group. But this doesn't necessarily mean inhalers are all that bad.

According to the Daily Mirror, the effects were more prominent in only the first year of treatment. The studies' lead author says that effect "seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs for controlling asthma and ensuring full lung growth."

In a press release, the researchers note the observed effects on growth could be caused by a variety of factors such as the kind of asthma medication used and the dosage. (Via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost 7 million children currently have asthma in the U.S., and it's unclear why some develop asthma while others don't. (Via Nationwide Children's Hospital)

But it should be noted the researchers say each study varied in the rate of growth suppression, and only some of the trials regularly monitored growth for more than a year.