Are Steroids Safe for Asthmatic Children?
Posted by Craig on Friday, January 05, 2007
Paolo Pianosi, MD, an asthma specialist at the Mayo Clinic, weighs the risks and benefits of inhaled steroids for asthmatic children at ABC Health News.

Dr. Pianosi references the new ads from Partnership for a Drug Free America which warn people to not take steroids. However, Dr. Pianosi goes on to explain that steroids are not all alike, and they can have good and bad effects depending on how they're used.

"The body manufactures many different kinds of steroid hormones: sex steroids, anabolic steroids (used by athletes of notoriety), steroids that maintain salt and water balance in the body, and steroids that help regulate the body's immune system," says Dr. Pianosi.

Steroids used to treat asthma help regulate the body's immune system and reduce inflammation in airways.

Dr. Pianosi says, "The best part is that very low doses of steroids bring great benefit. There is no question that some patients with asthma require higher doses to control symptoms, but this is the exception rather than the rule."

High doses of inhaled steroids can be harmful. For instance, a high dose may cause the body's adrenal glands to stop producing necessary steroids, which could lead to dehydration, a drop in blood pressure, and low blood sugar.

Inhaled steroids can sometimes affect growth in children as well. Studies show that when children start taking steroids, their growth velocity drops just a bit. Steroids may knock off a half inch of final height. But poorly controlled asthma may negatively affect growth as well.

Pianosi concludes that steroids are arguably the most effective medication available to control asthma:

"Ultimately, the decision — to inhale or not to inhale, so to speak — boils down to a risk versus benefit analysis, and (conveniently enough) a summarized analysis has come down from the top asthma brass — a collaboration of the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

"The preponderance of evidence concludes that the proven clinical effectiveness of inhaled steroid treatment for asthma decidedly outweighs the proven risks. Do not let steroid phobia interfere with your child's well-being. You want your child to be out there with his or her playmates and not standing dejected at the sidelines."

1 Comment
On 1/19/2007 Monique Attinger wrote:
I've found an herbal remedy which really helps asthma. My son takes it and it's made a big difference in his breathing -- no more cough and no more steriod inhaler! It's called Respiractin and it works amazingly well. It's too bad that more doctors don't know about it.
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