Background: The optimal duration of oral steroid treatment in the management of acute adult asthma is unclear. We prospectively studied the effect of 5 vs. 10 days of oral prednisolone in patients with acute asthma requiring hospital admission.
Methods: Each patient received 40 mg of enteric-coated prednisolone daily for 5 days, followed by 5 days of 40 mg prednisolone daily (n=24) or placebo (n=20). All were given their usual inhaled asthma therapy including inhaled corticosteroids. Patients kept PEF and symptom diaries for 21 days.
Results: For the 5-day treatment group mean (95% CI) early morning PEF was 6 (-47,+36) l/min lower to day 21 (P=0.78). There was no evidence of differences in other PEF measures (morning post-bronchodilator, evening or worst of day). One patient in each group had an exacerbation requiring further oral steroids during the 21-day observation period. Asthma symptom scores were worse in the 5-day group on days 6-21 but the significance of this finding was uncertain, as a difference had emerged by day 5 (prior to trial entry).
Conclusions: It may be possible to reduce the standard steroid course to 5 days in acute adult asthma, provided all patients receive inhaled steroids and a personal asthma management plan.