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Side-effects of steroids for children

It's likely your child will be given steroids to help manage the symptoms caused by their brain tumour and its treatments. 

Important points to remember:

  • Steroids help with symptom management rather than treating the tumour itself.
  • It is important that your child keeps taking steroids for as long as their doctor tells them to. When taking steroids your child's body will start to produce less of its own steroids naturally, so stopping steroids suddenly can make your child unwell.
  • The steroids used for brain tumours are NOT the anabolic steroids that are used by some athletes to build muscle.

What are the side-effects of steroids?

Everybody is different and your child is unlikely to experience all of these side-effects. You should talk to your child's doctor about any side-effects they do experience and should never stop giving your child their steroids without advice from your doctor.

Common side-effects of steroids

Common side-effects of steroids include:

  • increased appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • infection in the mouth
  • feeling thirstier or needing to wee more often (this can be a sign of increased blood sugar levels and you should talk to your child's medical team as soon as possible).
  • swelling of the hands and feet
  • emotional effects, like anxiety, irritability, temper tantrums or crying.

Side-effects associated with using steroids for more than a few months

With longer term use of steroids (more than a few months), other side-effects include:

  • skin feeling thinner
  • bruising more easily
  • legs feeling weaker
  • increased risk of infection and the infection being more severe
  • increased pressure in the eyes, which can lead to gradual loss of vision.

Your child's growth may also be affected if taking a high dose of steroids for a long time. Your child's health team will keep a check on them throughout the course of the steroid treatment to make sure that any such effects are minimised.

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