Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Easing Kids' Breathing Before Asthma

Study: Inhaled Steroids Cut Asthma-Like Symptoms During Treatment
By
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.

Height Difference?

During the two-year treatment period, all of the kids grew taller. But there was a slight difference in height gain between the two groups.

The average height increase after 24 months of treatment was about four-tenths of an inch (1.1 centimeters) less for kids in the Flovent group, compared with the placebo group.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Distressed woman
Slideshow
Woman holding an asthma inhaler
Article
 
Get Personalized Asthma Advice
Health Check
asthma overview
Slideshow
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Woman holding inhaler
VIDEO
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 
Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article