Q. My son has asthma. I recently read that budesonide (a medication he takes for his asthma) could affect his height as an adult. Should he stop taking this medication?
Budesonide is an inhaled glucocorticoid (steroid) medication used to treat asthma. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that long-term use of budesonide reduced final adult height by 1.2 cm or 0.47 inches.
When considering the relevance of this study, it is important to keep in mind that budesonide is a preventive medication intended for children whose asthma is poorly controlled on rescue medication alone. Use of inhaled steroids such as budesonide in these children will reduce their risk of hospitalization and severe wheezing, which may require oral steroid treatment.
As with any medication, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits. Although 1.2 cm is considered to be statistically significant, it is not substantial in comparison to uncontrolled asthma.
Local pediatric pulmonologist and asthma specialist Dr. Hugh Black recommends “a preventative approach rather than waiting and reacting when a child wheezes.” He says “rescue inhalers do not always work, and the chances of preventing a serious breathing emergency are much higher with regular daily prevention, even if there is a chance of a small reduction in adult height.”
If parents have concerns about budesonide, they should discuss these concerns with their child’s primary care provider. They should not discontinue the medication on their own.