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Breathing Easier About Kids' Inhalers

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Feb. 21, 2002 -- Parents of children with asthma are getting a breath of relief. A study finds no evidence that kids' asthma inhalers make them hyperactive.

It's a widespread rumor that asthma inhalers make preschool kids hyperactive. Many parents think it's the gospel truth. But it just isn't so, according to a report in the current issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The drug in question is albuterol. In the U.S., albuterol inhalers carry the brand name Proventil or Ventolin. Albuterol is known to have effects on the brain. Many parents report hyperactive behavior in preschool children who use albuterol for an asthma attack.

"This study has formally addressed the issue and has failed to show -- from both observer ratings and parental report -- any statistically significant difference in activity following administration of nebulized [albuterol]," write Irene Hadjikoumi of Guy's and St. Thomas' Medical School in London and co-workers.

The researchers studied 19 children with asthma. The kids ranged in age from 2 to just over 5 years. All of the children were randomly given a nebulized dose of either albuterol or an inactive salt spray. On a second visit one week later, the sprays were switched.

Neither the researchers nor the parents knew whether the kids had taken albuterol or the spray. Both rated the children's behavior as they played.

All of the parents thought that the drug would make their children hyperactive. Yet none of them saw any difference in activity levels when the kids actually got the active medicine. The expert observers couldn't see any difference, either.

This doesn't prove that the inhalers don't cause hyperactivity. The study was small. The children took only one dose of the drug. They were at the hospital clinic and not in their normal setting. And they weren't having asthma attacks, as they always would be when taking the drug at home.

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