Budesonide, a topically active corticosteroid, has a broad spectrum of clinically significant local anti-inflammatory effects in patients with inflammatory lung diseases including persistent asthma. In infants and young children with persistent asthma, day- and night-time symptom scores, and the number of days in which beta2-agonist bronchodilators were required, were significantly lower during randomised, double-blind treatment with budesonide inhalation suspension 0.5 to 2 mg/day than placebo in 3 multicentre trials. Significantly fewer children discontinued therapy with budesonide inhalation suspension than with placebo because of worsening asthma symptoms in a study that included children who were receiving inhaled corticosteroids at baseline. Recent evidence indicates that budesonide inhalation suspension is significantly more effective than nebulised sodium cromoglycate in improving control of asthma in young children with persistent asthma. At a dosage of 2 mg/day, budesonide inhalation suspension significantly reduced the number of asthma exacerbations and requirements for systemic corticosteroids in preschool children with severe persistent asthma. In children with acute asthma or wheezing, the preparation was as effective as, or more effective than oral prednisolone in improving symptoms. In children with croup, single 2 or 4mg dosages of budesonide inhalation suspension were significantly more effective than placebo and as effective as oral dexamethasone 0.6 mg/kg or nebulised L-epinephrine (adrenaline) 4mg in alleviating croup symptoms and preventing or reducing the duration of hospitalisation. Early initiation of therapy with budesonide inhalation suspension 1 mg/day appears to reduce the need for mechanical ventilation and decrease overall corticosteroid usage in preterm very low birthweight infants at risk for chronic lung disease. In adults with persistent asthma, budesonide inhalation suspension < or =8 mg/day has been compared with inhaled budesonide 1.6 mg/day and fluticasone propionate 2 mg/day administered by metered dose inhaler. Greater improvements in asthma control occurred in patients during treatment with budesonide inhalation suspension than with budesonide via metered dose inhaler, whereas fluticasone propionate produced greater increases in morning peak expiratory flow rates than nebulised budesonide. Several small studies suggest that the preparation has an oral corticosteroid-sparing effect in adults with persistent asthma and that it may be as effective as oral corticosteroids during acute exacerbations of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The frequency of adverse events was similar in children receiving budesonide inhalation suspension 0.25 to 2 mg/day or placebo in 12-week studies. During treatment with budesonide inhalation suspension 0.5 to 1 mg/day in 3 nonblind 52-week studies, growth velocity in children was generally unaffected; however, a small but statistically significant decrease in growth velocity was detected in children who were not using inhaled corticosteroids prior to the introduction of budesonide inhalation suspension. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function was not affected by short (12 weeks) or long (52 weeks) term treatment with nebulised budesonide. In conclusion, budesonide inhalation suspension is the most widely available nebulised corticosteroid, and in the US is the only inhaled corticosteroid indicated in children aged > or =1 year with persistent asthma. The preparation is suitable for use in infants, children and adults with persistent asthma and in infants and children with croup.