Are asthma inhalers stunting your child’s growth?

Family Health

By pH health care professionals

Asthma inhalers are a fixture in many children’s backpacks and the school nurse’s office. Often, a quick burst of albuterol means the difference between gasping through or acing the one-mile running test. Allergists and pediatricians rely on these colorful devices for their reliable treatment of asthma and reactive airway disease, which is reaching epidemic proportions among kids. As with any medication, though, it’s important to know and manage the risks of asthma medication.

What are the risks?

For children, growth is everything, and some asthma medications unfortunately can stunt growth. Steroids like fluticasone and beclamethasone are meant to be taken as asthma preventers -- daily. But fluticasone (Flovent), for example, was found in a review of published research to reduce growth by half a centimeter per year in kids under 18. And while a study of preschoolers found that daily steroids didn’t seem to affect growth, the extremely rapid growth in puberty, driven by hormones, could be the most susceptible to high levels of steroids.             

What is a parent to do?

1. First, discuss your child’s symptoms with your pediatrician or allergist. If your child experiences only seasonal symptoms, it might be smart to stick to seasonal steroid use only. For example, when it starts to warm up in the spring, your child could start taking the steroid inhaler daily to prevent the onset of seasonal attacks.

2. Second, and just as important as the first option, explore possible treatment options. Some children with asthma may be successfully treated with leukotriene inhibitors (reduces inflammation) or with magnesium – and neither cause growth problems. Magnesium’s ability to open up your bronchi, which are the main passageways for air to get into your lungs, as well as anti-inflammatory effects make this a promising treatment option to discuss with your child’s doctor.

3.  Third, remove obvious asthma triggers. Do a little detective work and observe patterns in your child's wheezing. Change the flowers out front to cactuses. Consider using allergy pillow encasings and stripping the carpet.

But there is one caveat: babies. If you have a baby in the house, or are pregnant, make sure not to create an overly sterile environment. Allergists are now finding that babies whose immune systems are exposed to animals, dust, farms, soil and pollen are less likely to develop allergies later in life. If you have a child with asthma and a baby or are pregnant, just focus on making modifications to the asthmatic child’s room and see if oral antihistamines help.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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