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    Easing Kids' Breathing Before Asthma

    Study: Inhaled Steroids Cut Asthma-Like Symptoms During Treatment
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    May 10, 2006 -- For young kids at high risk of asthma, inhaled corticosteroids may ease asthma-like symptoms. But those benefits don't last after steroids are stopped, a new study shows.

    The study appears in The New England Journal of Medicine. It included 285 kids who were about 3 years old when the three-year study started.

    All of the kids were at high risk for asthma. They had had at least four wheezing episodes, with at least one of those episodes diagnosed by a doctor. They also had at least one or two other asthma risk factors, such as doctor-diagnosed atopic dermatitis (eczema) or parental history of asthma.

    The kids may have also had allergies, but not any other serious health problems. More than half of the kids were white (53%), while 12% were black, 20% were Hispanic, and about 15% were from other racial or ethnic groups.

    Two Years of Treatment

    The researchers included Theresa Guilbert, MD, of the Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson. They randomly assigned the kids to two groups.

    For two years, one group of kids used two daily doses of the inhaled corticosteroid Flovent. The other group got a placebo treatment that lacked any drug.

    Afterward, the researchers stopped the daily inhaled Flovent and followed the kids for an extra year of observation. Throughout the study, the researchers interviewed the kids' parents about the children's asthma-like symptoms (coughing and wheezing). The interviews covered the kids' symptoms during the previous two weeks.

    Children in both groups were treated as needed, if problems developed.

    Fewer Symptoms

    During the two-year treatment period, children that used Flovent had a greater proportion of days without asthma-like symptoms than kids in the placebo group.

    Compared with the placebo group, the Flovent group also had a lower rate of worsening asthma symptoms that required further steroid treatment (such as steroid pills), the study also shows.

    But those benefits didn't last into the observation year when none of the kids used daily Flovent.

    "Clinical improvement was observed while the children were treated with inhaled corticosteroid but disappeared after treatment had been discontinued," write the researchers.

    "Our data suggest that inhaled corticosteroids have little therapeutic effect on the processes that determine the progression of the disease from its initial, intermittent stages to a more chronic form, as described in the epidemiology literature," Guilbert and colleagues add.

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