For children taking oral doses of powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise and diet are a crucial way to overcome the potentially bone-damaging side effects of the drugs, a British researcher said on Thursday.
Osteoporosis is a fragile-bone disease that can affect children taking oral doses of corticosteroids. Every year, around 1% of children ages 4 to 17 are given a course of oral steroids, more than half to treat severe asthma. Most youngsters with asthma are given inhaled versions of the drugs, which are safer than oral doses.
Researcher from the University of Sheffield said children given long-term oral steroids are at significantly increased risk of fractures, a risk that grows with higher and more-frequent doses. The bone-weakening effects of the drugs can be counteracted by a group of medicines called bisphosphonates, but patients and their families can also make a big difference themselves through diet and exercise.
For example, he said, 15% of adolescents avoid dairy products altogether, which could have a "massive" impact on their fracture risk.
Similarly, weight-bearing exercise like walking or cycling can help build bone density, but there is a natural tendency for chronically sick children to reduce the amount of exercise they do, he said.
Considering all this, the researcher had a simple message for the parents of these children.
"Encourage the child to be as physically active as they want to be and can be within the limitations of wheezing -- if they can't run, (then) go swimming -- and maintain a good dairy product intake. A pint of milk a day would suit most."
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