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Intermittent Steroid Use Called OK for Wheezing Preschoolers
Date:11/23/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Preschoolers who have recurrent wheezing episodes but not an asthma diagnosis are often prescribed inhaled steroid medication, and new research suggests it's OK to take those medications on an as-needed basis instead of every day.

Respiratory illnesses frequently trigger severe wheezing in young children, and the treatment for some of these kids -- using inhaled steroid medications such as budesonide (Pulmicort) on a daily basis -- might expose them to more of the drugs than necessary, the researchers said.

"We learned that the daily, low-dose treatment regimen of inhaled budesonide was no better than a high-dose regimen used for seven days during a specific respiratory illness," said the study's lead author, Dr. Robert Zeiger, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of allergy research at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

"However, there are certain caveats to the findings. This is only applicable to patients similar to those studied. It would not be applicable to those with more severe wheezing episodes or those with persistent wheezing. And, parents shouldn't institute treatment for every sniffle or cold. Parents need to be instructed on when to use the treatment. They'll need to recognize past symptoms that preceded the development of a wheezing episode," Zeiger explained.

Results of the study are published in the Nov. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and several academic institutions.

Daily use of inhaled budesonide is recommended for children under 5 years who've had four or more wheezing episodes during the past year, and have an increased risk of developing asthma.

"These are toddlers at high risk for asthma, but they don't have persistent symptoms
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