Potent, topically active corticosteroids with minimum systemic activity have fewer adverse effects than do systemic corticosteroids, and can control both asthma and allergic rhinitis when given in recommended doses. However, study findings show that children with asthma receiving budesonide and beclometasone dipropionate have decreased linear growth, and that children who receive long-term inhaled corticosteroid therapy for asthma have height deficits 1-2 years after treatment initiation that persist into adulthood. The effects of inhaled corticosteroids on growth seem to be dependent on both dose and duration; the degree of systemic effects is dependent on pharmacokinetic properties (ie, absorption, distribution, and elimination), whereas the effective dose delivered is dependent on the delivery system and potency of the molecule. The effects of corticosteroids on bone mineral density in children seem to be more amenable to intervention; long-term therapy with inhaled corticosteroid therapy is safer than frequent bursts of oral corticosteroids on bone mineral accretion in this regard. Importantly, adequate nutrition (particularly sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D) should prevent or blunt the effects of corticosteroids on bone mineral density. The potential adverse effects of inhaled corticosteroids need to be weighed against the large and well established benefit of these drugs to control persistent asthma. To minimise any adverse effects, treatment with inhaled corticosteroids should always aim to reach the lowest effective dose that gives the patient good asthma control.