In a study published in The Cochrane Library, children who inhaled corticosteroid drugs for managing their asthma grew half a centimetre shorter compared to children not taking the drugs.Phyllis Buchanan/Flickr

Certain medications commonly used to treat asthma can stunt the growth in children, latest research shows.

In a study published in The Cochrane Library, children who inhaled corticosteroid drugs for managing their asthma shrunk half a centimetre shorter compared to children who did take the drugs. Though these effects appeared within one year of starting the treatment, a second study reported in the same journal found that they can be minimized by using lower doses.

The first study looked at the effect of inhaled corticosteroids, except triamcinolone on 8,471 paediatric asthma patients from 25 trials. Researchers received growth rates of 5,717 children as a part of 14 trials. While the normal children grew 6-9 cm per year, the asthma group experienced a 0.5 cm reduction in growth.

"The evidence we reviewed suggests that children treated daily with inhaled corticosteroids may grow approximately half a centimetre less during the first year of treatment," lead author of the review, Linjie Zhang, who is based at the Faculty of Medicine at the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil, said in a news release. "But this effect less pronounced in subsequent years, is not cumulative, and seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs for controlling asthma and ensuring full lung growth."

In the second study, the same researchers analyzed variations in growth rate involved with low or medium dose of inhaled corticosteroid in childhood. Two drugs called triamcinolone and flunisolide were not tested in these studies. Researchers closely monitored the growth of 728 children for a period of one year. They were part of three studies that included details about effects of three different doses. Children who used low dose - one puff daily - achieved a quarter of a centimetre more growth per year.

The studies reflect findings of an analysis presented at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Vienna, Austria in September 2012. Robert C. Strunk and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine measured height and weight of about 943 participants, who were receiving asthma treatment for more than four years. They found that children who took budesonide shrunk 1.2 centimetres (one-half inch) shorter than children who took an inhaled non-steroid medication nedocromil.

Additionally, according to health experts at the NHS Choices UK, long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids can increase the risk of a fungal infection called oral thrush, while getting the drug through an injection can cause nausea, insomnia, tachycardia, mood changes and indigestion. Similarly, oral corticosteroids can cause many side effects, including acne, increased appetite, mood swings, weight gain, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, bone weakness, diabetes, glaucoma, Cushing's syndrome and cataracts.

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