A new study has linked asthma medications taken during infancy to stunted growth. Infants given asthma medications during their first 2 years of age are likely to be stunted in later life, according to the findings that highlight the importance of using these medicines in infants appropriately.
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) – medications used to treat conditions such as asthma – are frequently used in infants with recurrent wheezing. However, these medications may have harmful effects, for instance a reduced growth rate in development and a shorter height in adulthood.
In this study, researchers from Kuopio University Hospital and University of Eastern Finland analysed information on the height, weight and asthma medicine intake of 12,482 Finnish children aged 0-24 months. The researchers found that children who used inhaled corticosteroids during the first 2 years of life were too short for their age. This result was more evident in children taking the asthma medicine budesonide for more than 6 months.
Many factors that alter development in children, such as chronic illnesses and long-term use of oral corticosteroids, may cause a shorter than normal height in adulthood. Lead researcher Antti Saari said that their research shows a link between long-term treatment of ICS during infancy and stunted growth at or after the age of 2 in otherwise healthy children.
Saari added that according to the research, they could only assess the impact of inhaled corticosteroids on growth in infancy until 2 to 3 years of age. The longitudinal impact of these medications is not clear and they would therefore like to investigate this further.
The research was presented at the 54th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting.