Safety of inhaled corticosteroid therapy in young children with asthma

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2001 Jun;86(6):649-54. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)62293-4.


Background: Physicians have had some reluctance to use inhaled corticosteroids in very young children with asthma because of the possible risks of adverse systemic effects.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of fluticasone propionate on growth and adrenocortical function in young children with asthma.

Methods: We performed an open, prospective study for 24 weeks of 20 children with asthma, 2.5 to 5.0 years of age, who had received fluticasone by a large volume spacer at dosages ranging from 190.50 to 565.40 microg/m2 daily. Growth was evaluated by height standard deviation scores measured by a stadiometer. Adrenocortical function was evaluated twice in each child, before and after the study, by determining fasting serum cortisol concentrations at 8 AM and also at 30 and 60 minutes after adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation. Posttreatment values of height standard deviation scores and fasting morning serum cortisol concentrations were compared with those of 18 age-matched children, who constituted the control group.

Results: The evaluation of mean +/- SEM (and range) of height standard deviation scores revealed a significant decrease from 0.44 +/- 0.27 (-1.46 to 2.22) to 0.28 +/- 0.26 (-1.51 to 2.07; P = 0.01) at week 18 and to 0.25 +/- 0.24 (-1.90 to 2.13; P = 0.04) at the week 24 in fluticasone-treated children. At the end of the treatment, however, height standard deviation scores of these children did not differ significantly (P = 0.35) from those of the control group. Delayed growth with medium-duration treatment was not associated with alterations in serum cortisol measurements, either at baseline or after stimulation. The mean fasting morning serum cortisol concentrations did not differ significantly between the fluticasone-treated patients and the control group.

Conclusions: Some concern prevails about the safety of medium- or long-term treatment with regularly inhaled corticosteroids in young children with asthma. The prepubertal growth may be delayed, but the effect on ultimate height remains uncertain in such children. Growth should be regularly monitored in children who begin inhaled corticosteroid therapy for mild persistent asthma at an age <5 years old.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Body Height / drug effects
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone