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Inhaled steroids help young children breathe but do not prevent chronic asthma

Daily treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can reduce breathing problems in pre-school-aged children at high risk for asthma but they do not prevent the development of persistent asthma in these children, according to new results from the Childhood Asthma Research and Education (CARE) Network supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

Studies in older children and adults show that the most effective long-term control medicine for persistent asthma (symptoms more than two days a week or more than twice a month at night) is inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce airway swelling and help prevent asthma symptoms (e.g., asthma attacks). The Prevention of Early Asthma in Kids (PEAK) multicenter clinical trial, published in the May 11, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, answers a question that pediatricians and researchers have been asking for years: Can medicine that treats the inflammation of asthma be used to prevent the disease if given early enough in at-risk patients?

"Asthma is an enormous public health problem, and this study was designed to see if we could stop the development of asthma in its tracks while the lungs are still developing in young children known to be at high risk," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD. "Although this study shows that inhaled corticosteroids do not prevent chronic asthma, it provides clear evidence that inhaled corticosteroids benefit even some of our youngest patients."

A breathing disease in which the airways are inflamed, asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness in the United States. In 2004, nearly 9 million children had been diagnosed with asthma, including 1.5 million under the age of 5 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, children 4 years old or younger have the highest rates of hospitalization (59 per 10,000) and emergency room use (162 per 10,000) due
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NHLBI_news@nhlbi.nih.gov
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
10-May-2006


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