Hair cortisol as a novel biomarker of HPA suppression by inhaled corticosteroids in children

Laura Smy, Kaitlyn Shaw, Anne Smith, Evan Russell, Stan Van Uum, Michael Rieder, Bruce Carleton, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Asthma is the most common chronic condition in childhood, and the recommended pharmacotherapy for long-term control includes the use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). ICS were designed to act at the site of inflammation in the lung, thus decreasing systemic absorption and reducing the risk of adverse effects associated with corticosteroid use (e.g., HPA suppression and its consequent effects). Available data show that measurement of hair cortisol successfully reflects endogenous cortisol levels. We sought to examine whether hair cortisol measurements can be used to identify HPA suppression surrounding ICS therapy in children with asthma.Methods:Hair samples were collected from the vertex posterior region of the head of 18 asthmatic children. We compared their hair cortisol concentration during ICS use with the concentration prior to ICS use.Results:During ICS therapy, median hair cortisol levels were twofold lower compared with the period of no ICS use (median 89.8 ng/g vs. 198.2 ng/g, P = 0.0015).Conclusion:Hair cortisol is an effective biomarker of the HPA suppression associated with ICS therapy and can be a sensitive tool for determining systemic effects of ICS use and monitoring adherence. Future research is needed to characterize the effect of untreated asthma on hair cortisol concentrations, if any.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-47
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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