Purpose of review: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are first-line therapy for persistent asthma in children. Major safety concerns about long-term ICS therapy include suppression of adrenal function, growth, and bone development. Proper interpretation of ICS safety studies requires knowledge of differences between various ICS drug/delivery device systems.
Recent findings: Dosage, type of inhaler device used, patient technique, and characteristics of the individual drug influence systemic effects of ICS. Reports of adrenal insufficiency occur but are rare and are confined to children receiving high doses of ICS. Dose-related inhibition of growth is detectable as ICS dosage increases, but appears temporary, more pronounced in childhood, and is not associated with reduction in final height. Moderate-dose ICS therapy is not associated with significant changes in measurements of bone density, but more studies of high doses and of therapy in adolescents are needed.
Summary: Recent studies confirm that benefits of ICS, properly prescribed and used, clearly outweigh not only their potential adverse effects but also the risks associated with poorly controlled asthma.