Risk of Steroid Treatment for Asthma in Children

March 2, 2011

Children experiencing an asthma attack who are treated with a short burst of oral steroids may have a brief and transient depression of immune response, according to a new study led by Université de Montréal. These findings, published in this month’s issue of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonology, have implications for asthmatic children who have flare-ups and who may be exposed to new contagious diseases.

Francine M. Ducharme, a Université de Montréal professor and pediatrician and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center sums it up. “There is no question that the administration of corticosteroids reduces the risk and duration of hospital admission in children with acute asthma and remains the most effective treatment for moderate and severe asthma exacerbations. However, the safety profile of these medications continues to raise concerns among parents and physicians. Concerns over their possible impact on the immune system stem from few rare reports linking or severe chickenpox infections linked with corticosteroid administration.”

The study is based on the immune response of children aged 3 to 17 years, who had arrived at the emergency department (ED) with an asthma attack. All subjects were given immune triggers (known as antigens) and the immune response between those who received corticosteroids versus those who did not were compared. “Several corticosteroid-treated children had a lower immune response, as measured by the amount of antibody produced, than non-treated kids,” says Ducharme.

However it seems that these findings indicate there may be a very transient immune suppression only in some children exposed to a new antigen at the same time as a corticosteroid administration. In other words your child needs to have an attack, steroids and a new antigen such as chicken pox within a six week period. This is reassuring as it does not apply to the majority of children who suffer asthma attacks, but before your child is prescribed oral corticosteroids you need to inform your doctor about any recent exposure to chickenpox in children who did not have chickenpox or the vaccine.

The researchers recommend that all children with asthma who have not had chickenpox should be vaccinated for this condition. Yet vaccinations are not the ideal route for everyone, and there are a number of well tried homoeopathic remedies which may be suitable for your child. Seek the advice of a qualified homoepath and to find one near you consult the register at www.homeopathy-soh.org/


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