PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Could allergy and asthma drugs stunt growth?

“Up until now, we’ve never really known what combination therapy does to the growth of children,” Dr. David Skoner, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital, says.

This allergist’s research says yes.

“The results of our study shows that the effect is bigger than you’d find with either alone,” he adds.

In the study, 22 children, ages 6 to 15, either received a combination of nasal and inhaled steroids or placebo. Then, growth was measured over three weeks with a special tool, available only at a few centers around the country.

The study looked at the change in the rate of growth in the lower part of the leg, from the top of the knee to the heel. Even in just a few weeks, you can measure tiny changes in length.

“We actually measure in millimeters per week,” says Dr. Skoner. “We were able to detect a growth effect of a fraction of a millimeter.”

In terms of adult height, this could amount to being shorter by a centimeter or so.

“Now one could say, well, maybe that’s unimportant, if the trade-off is I can breathe, play and sleep, and everything else. And that’s probably true. But there are people in our society very concerned about the height of their children,” Dr. Skoner says.

How steroids interfere with growth isn’t clear, but it’s possible the medicine affects nighttime growth hormone secretion, or affects the ends of long bones where growth occurs.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

Dr. Skoner is worried because many of these nasal and inhaled steroids, such as Nasocort, Flonase, Nasonex, are already or soon to be over-the-counter. And children are commonly treated for allergy and asthma with this combination.

He hopes doctors will pay close attention to growth in their young patients on these medications.

His study was accepted as a study poster, and is being peer-reviewed for publication.

Dr. Maria Simbra