Rationale: Allergic asthma, typically controlled with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), is the leading chronic health condition for youth under 18 years of age. During this peri-adolescent period, significant brain maturation occurs. Prior studies indicate that both chronic inflammation and corticosteroid medications increase risk for developing an internalizing disorder like anxiety. Objectives: To determine if chronic ICS treatments exacerbate or alleviate anxiety symptoms associated with developmental allergic asthma, we used a mouse model to isolate the influence of ICS (fluticasone propionate, FLU) vs. airway inflammation (induced with house dust mite extract, HDM). Methods: During development, male and female BALB/cJ mice were repeatedly exposed to HDM or saline plus one of four FLU doses (none/vehicle, low, moderate, or high). In adulthood, we assessed lung inflammation, circulating and excreted corticosteroids, anxiety-like behavior, and gene expression in stress and emotion regulation brain regions. Results: FLU treatment decreased body weight and anxiety-like behavior and increased fecal corticosterone metabolite concentrations and Crhr2 gene expression in ventral hippocampus. FLU effects were only observed in saline/non-HDM-exposed mice, and the FLU doses used did not significantly decrease HDM-induced airway inflammation. Females had greater serum and fecal corticosterone concentrations, less anxiety-like behavior, and lower Crhr1 gene expression in ventral hippocampus and prefrontal cortex than males. Conclusions: These findings suggest that steroid medications for youth with allergic asthma may not exacerbate anxiety-related symptoms, and that they should be avoided in children/adolescents without a health condition. The results are informative to future work on the use of corticosteroid medications during childhood or adolescent development.
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