Meet Jake who will be able to tell you all about children taking steroids.
Steroids occur naturally within our bodies, but can also be made in the laboratory for medical purposes. One of their key functions is to reduce inflammation/swelling and ease associated symptoms, such as headaches. They are also used to protect the brain during surgery. In other words, steroids help to manage the symptoms of a brain tumour rather than treating the tumour itself.
It is highly likely that your child will be given steroids at some point during their treatment.
When your child has a tumour in their brain, it is not only the tumour itself that causes some of the symptoms they may have, but also the swelling surrounding the tumour. This swelling puts pressure on surrounding tissues that can cause symptoms such as headaches, sickness and seizures (fits). To help reduce the swelling, your child's doctor may prescribe steroids (often a steroid called Dexamethasone). As steroids are fast-acting drugs this could mean that some of the effects caused by the tumour reduce quite quickly. This does not mean, however, that the size of tumour itself has been reduced.
Before or after treatment
If your child is having radiotherapy or surgery as part of their treatment, they may be given steroids to help bring down swelling caused by these treatments. Also, if your child is having chemotherapy, a low dosage of steroids may be given if they feel seek (have nausea).
There are different ways that steroids can be taken, including:
The most common way for children to take steroids is in tablet form. The tablets are small and should not be too difficult for your child to swallow. They could practice by swallowing tic tacs.
Generally, your child will only take steroids for a few days or weeks. You will be given instructions from your child's doctor about exactly when and for how long your child will need to take steroids.
If taking steroids for longer than a week, your child is likely to be given a steroid card. It has important information about the type of steroid and the dosage that may be needed in an emergency.
You may also wish to buy your child a medical alert bracelet. For information about these, see the full fact sheet at the bottom of this page.
It might help to leave yourself a note or set an alarm to remind you. Getting into a routine of when your child takes their steroids is also helpful. If your child does miss a dose, do NOT try to compensate by giving them a double dose next time. Speak to your child's doctor to see what they advise.
Everybody is different and your child is unlikely to have all these side-effects. You should talk to your child's doctor about any side-effects they do experience.
There is also more information about how to cope with these in the full fact sheet at the bottom of this page.
Remember do NOT stop giving your child their steroids without advice from your doctor.
Common side-effects of steroids include:
Children on steroids should not be given 'live' vaccines including the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) injection nor the BCG injection (which protects against tuberculosis). Speak to your child's doctor about this.
The emotional and behavioural side-effects that steroids may cause can be difficult to cope with, but it is important that your child takes them to reduce swelling and relieve pressure on their brain. You may find the following practical suggestions helpful:
Page last reviewed: 02/2018
Next review due: 02/2021
Find out more about Steroids for children on the full fact sheet - including more information about coping with the side-effects.
Find out more about Steroids for children on the full fact sheet - Clear print version,designed to RNIB guidelines - including more information about coping with the side-effects.
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