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Asthma And Allergy Drugs: Do They Stunt Growth?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- This high school freshman is in marching band.

She rides horses and dances -- she also has allergies and asthma.

"If we're running a lot, I can sometimes start to feel it. When I start breathing it hurts my lungs a little bit," says Taylor Stavor of West Mifflin. "I have an inhaler that I take 15 minutes prior to activity, or if I'm going to be around one of my triggers."

Her mother admits there have been some scary attacks.

"She just could not breathe," Beverly Stavor describes. "I know the times we needed the medicine, it was either the medicine or the emergency room."

The inhalers Taylor has taken since she was in third grade are in a class of medicines called inhaled corticosteroids. Some studies show they affect growth, some do not.

Because of the unknowns, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital is doing a first of its kind study to see if these FDA-approved drugs taken through the nose for allergies and through the mouth for asthma impair growth.

"We're actually putting steroid in the nose and in the lungs in the same child, to see if there's a bigger impact on growth than either alone," says Dr. David Skoner, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital.

Dr. Skoner presented a case before the FDA about a child on two drugs in this class who ended up with adrenal suppression. A third drug is being considered to go over the counter.

"Nasocort had no effect on adrenal function, but a tiny, tiny effect on growth," he points out.

In his growth study, children ages 12 to 15 get either these asthma drugs or placebo for three weeks, and then switch. Their leg length is measured weekly.

"All she does is move you back and forth to find the highest point of your leg," says Taylor.

"We're looking for millimeters of change in the length," says Dr. Skoner, "which is not a big effect, but it depends whether you want to play in the NBA or not."

"We are very tall in our family, so it really hasn't seemed to affect us," says Beverly.

"Taking these medications can really help some kids with their asthma. I know it helped me when I was on them," says Taylor. "But their parents are worried to put them on them, because they don't want their kid to be affected by it. So I want the study to prove it's not really gonna."

In the study, the medication, the visits, the lung function tests are free and there is compensation. But you must be in the age range and have allergies and asthma.

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