Children with asthma and related breathing problems are being given drugs that don’t help the condition, and which may do them harm, according to two studies.

One study of 31 children found that aminophylline did nothing to speed recovery.

It also failed to shorten hospital stay or improve breathing flow.

However, the drug did cause side effects in six of the children.

These included headache, nausea, vomiting causing two to leave the study. Pediatrics 1994 Feb; 93:201-10.

The second study suggests that albuterol, a common beta-2 agonist, may not always be much help, either. Doctors in Egypt looked at 128 young children suffering their first attack of bronchiolitis, wheezing caused by inflammation of the small airways that enter the lung.

They compared the recovery of those treated with inhaled or oral albuterol, with inhaled or oral placebo.

An hour after treatment the researchers found no difference in breathing rate, symptoms or oxygen saturation in any of the four groups J Pediatr 1994 Jan; 124: 131-8.

Cranberry for urine infections

Conventional medicine has finally woken up to the fact that cranberry juice is an effective treatment for urine infections something herbalists have known for decades.

Doctors at the US Harvard Medical School conducted a randomized, double blind placebo controlled study of 153 elderly women.

They were randomly assigned to drink either 300ml a day of cranberry juice or 300ml of a placebo that looked and tasted like the juice, over a six month period.

The researchers found that the monthly urine samples of those taking cranberry juice were less likely to show signs of infection than those taking the placebo (15 per cent compared with 28 per cent).

They also found that the cranberry group were half as likely to be prescribed antibiotics for urinary tract infections than the placebo group.

!AJAMA, 9 March 1994.

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