Experts say the stunt in growth is 'a small price to pay' to protect against asthma attacks / Corbis

However leading doctors and healthcare campaigners say this 'is a small price to pay' to protect against potentially lethal attacks

Children who use corticosteroid inhalers to combat asthma attacks may suffer from stunted growth, new research has confirmed.

The study of more than 8,000 young people shows that during the first year of treatment, use of the most common types of inhaler cuts growth rates by about half a centimetre among under-18s.

However leading doctors and healthcare campaigners have warned children and their parents to keep using their inhalers, calling this “is a small price to pay” to protect against potentially lethal asthma attacks.

According to the study, published by the Cochrane Collection think tank, the effect of inhaler use could be reduced with smaller doses. Most scientists studying corticosteroid inhalers believe that growth return to normal after the first few years of therapy.

The report’s lead author Dr Linjie Zhang, from the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil, said that reduced growth 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."

Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at the charity Asthma Research UK, said: "For a long time now people with asthma have told us they fear the side effects of taking asthma medicines but the good news is this evidence shows only a relatively minor impact from inhaled corticosteroids. No parent should therefore stop their children taking these lifesaving medicines."

Dr Glenis Scadding, consultant physician in allergy a 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."