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Vol. 16, No. 5, 2009
Issue release date: June 2009
Neuroimmunomodulation 2009;16:353–362

Intranasal Corticosteroids and Adrenal Suppression

Bruni F.M. · De Luca G. · Venturoli V. · Boner A.L.
Departments of Pediatrics,aPoliclinico G.B. Rossi, Verona, and bBentivoglio Hospital, Bologna, Italy

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Allergic rhinitis is a common condition that frequently coexists with asthma and atopic dermatitis. It is commonly treated with intranasal corticosteroids which may increase the potential inception of side effects of the same type of drugs used for the treatment of other allergic diseases. A method to assess the systemic effect of corticosteroids is the evaluation of their effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. However, it is not clear which test is best for detection of clinically relevant HPA axis suppression in children Morning plasma cortisol levels are twice that of late afternoon and evening values and a delay in the time of onset in peak cortisol levels has been observed in children treated with inhaled corticosteroids. Single morning cortisol level has a low sensitivity for detecting adrenal insufficiency in children. 24-Hour plasma cortisol is a good test because it is a non-invasive measure of the biologically active free cortisol levels for the entire day. For research purposes, the 24-hour integrated concentration plasma cortisol test is preferred. Studies that have looked at HPA axis suppression with intranasal corticosteroids indicate that overall, intranasal corticosteroids have a minimal effect on the HPA axis. A review of the literature reveals one study in which there was a decreased output of urinary cortisol during treatment with either budesonide or fluticasone propionate in adults. Other studies with fluticasone propionate or budesonide have shown no effect on the HPA axis in children. Beclomethasone dipropionate was shown to affect urinary cortisol output in one study on healthy volunteers. However, in a long-term study in children, no effect on the HPA axis was found. Mometasone furoate has been extensively studied in more than 20 trials of adults and children. No effects on the HPA axis were detected in either children or adults. Fluticasone furoate nasal spray was not associated with HPA axis suppression. It is unlikely that children are more sensitive to corticosteroids than adults. There is no reason to perform routine monitoring of adrenal function in children who are treated with intranasal corticosteroid unless those drugs are used concomitantly with inhaled corticosteroids and/or steroid ointments for the possible concomitant presence of asthma and/or atopic dermatitis.

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