ASTHMA inhalers can stunt the growth of children, research has shown.

During the first year of treatment, the widely used remedies cut growth rates by about a fifth of an inch, said scientists.

But they and other experts stressed that slight loss of growth was a small price to pay for protection against potentially lethal asthma attacks.

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Evidence also suggested the effect could be minimised by using lower doses of the drugs.

Scientists reviewed trial data on more than 8,000 people aged 18 and under with mild to moderate asthma.

The research focused on corticosteroid inhalers, which are prescribed as first-line treatments for both adults and children with persistent asthma.

Writing in the Cochrane Library, a collection of ­publications designed to inform health care decision-making, the team assessed effects of the drugs on children's growth.

Lead author Dr Linjie Zhang, from the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil, said: "The evidence we reviewed suggests that children treated daily with inhaled corticosteroids may grow approximately half a centimetre less during the first year of treatment.

"But this effect is less pronounced in subsequent years, is not cumulative, and seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs for controlling asthma and ensuring full lung growth."

Dr Glenis Scadding, consultant physician in allergy and rhinology at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London, said: "It is vital that parents do not stop giving their children asthma inhaled corticosteroid preventer medication, which reduces the death rate from asthma, which still kills some thousands of sufferers each year."