Study Shows Reduction in Serious Asthma Attacks among Preschoolers

January 30, 2009
Julia Ernst, MS

A new study has found that high doses of inhaled corticosteroids are effective in limiting the severity and length of asthma attacks set off by colds.

A new study from the University of Montreal has found that high doses of inhaled corticosteroids are an effective measure in limiting the severity and length of asthma attacks in preschoolers that are set off by colds.

When inhaled at the beginning of a cold and continued for as long as 10 days, the researchers found that the number of moderate or severe asthma attacks requiring emergency oral steroids among preschoolers were reduced. The study included 129 children, aged 12 months to six years. The normal pediatric dose of steroids was increased by six times, given right at the onset of colds for no longer than 10 days.

This treatment resulted in a reduction in asthma attacks for half of the study participants. Researchers also saw a decrease in the length of the colds in one-fifth of the children. Children who received the steroids had milder symptoms that lasted for less time compared with the placebo group, which researchers said reduced the effect of the illness on the study participants’ parents.

Side effects of the treatment were also monitored. Over the 10-month study, a slightly slower growth rate of about four percent was noted in the children receiving the steroids when compared to the placebo group. The untreated children gained more weight — children on the steroids gained about 1.5 kg over the course of the study, compared to 2 kg for those who were not on the treatment.

According to the researchers, the particular type of asthma in this study typically disappears before the children are six years old. The impacts on growth as a result of the study are not likely permanent, though researchers say it remains unclear if the children will be able to make up for the slight shortcoming in their growth.