Everybody Panic: Asthma Inhalers May Stunt Growth Permanently

A new study shows that the use of budesonide, an asthma medication, may permanently stunt children’s growth. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the drug, marketed under the brand names Pulmicort and Rhinocort, seems to reduce final adult height by about a half-inch.

OHMYGAH. A half-inch? Well, now my kid will never be a professional basketball player. Oh, wait, maybe he still can. Because his freaking asthma is under control.

Here are the facts you should know:

This is not your rescue inhaler. This study has nothing to do with albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil). So you should know that up front.

Budesonide is a maintenance med. It is a glucocorticoid steroid used for prevention and maintenance, not for dealing with an asthma attack. It is marketed as Pulmicort (for your inhaler or in respules for your nebulizer) and Rhinocort (a nasal spray thingy). It is also sold as an oral tablet and as an enema under the brand name Entocort. It is also used in combination with formoterol under the brand name Symbicort.

This new study is a follow-up from a very large study conducted more than a decade ago, which besides finding that the medication affects children’s height a bit, found that budesonide is safe and very effective at controlling serious asthma. Basically, the new study followed up with the old study. The news part of this is that people thought maybe kids who used budesonide might “catch up” when they stopped using the medication. This follow-up found that while growth rate does increase after stopping the medication, it doesn’t catch patients up quite all the way.

Talk to your pediatrician if you’re concerned about growth issues. Your doctor may consider lowering the dose, if possible, to possibly reduce the medication’s impact on growth.

Do Not Screw Around With Your Asthma. I really can’t emphasize this enough. If you or your child has been prescribed budesonide, don’t stop using it. Asthma is serious business. While we make great strides in medication every day, you know what isn’t changing? The number of people dying of asthma. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the rate of people dying of asthma has not changed much since 1980 — in fact it’s increased.

It doesn’t pay to skip doses. If you’re supposed to be taking medication regularly to prevent asthma flares, for God’s sake, take it. And get it into your kids. And keep your rescue inhaler with you. Because if you don’t do those things, you may end up taking a really sucky, scary trip to the ER.

More asthma facts. Here’s what the CDC has to say: (All data is for the U.S.)

  • 18.7 million: Number of American adults with asthma.
  • 8.2%: Percent of American adults with asthma.
  • 7.0 million: Number of American children with asthma.
  • 9.4%: Percent of American children with asthma.
  • 4: Average days of school missed per year due to asthma.
  • 17.0 million: Annual number of visits American kids and adults made to physician offices, hospital outpatient and emergency departments with asthma as primary diagnosis
  • 479,000: Annual number of hospital in-patient stays, where asthma is the first-listed diagnosis at discharge in one year
  • 4.3 days: Average length of in-patient hospital stay
  • 3,388: Number of asthma deaths in 2009 in the U.S. (most recent data)
  • 1.1: Asthma deaths per 100,000 population

So, yeah. As an adult with asthma, and as a parent with four kids who all have asthma, I’m not too worried about that half-inch.

(via: NBC News)

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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