Objective: Intramuscular dexamethasone is an effective, but painful, treatment for croup. The effectiveness of betamethasone, an oral, palatable, and equally potent glucocorticoid has not been studied. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of a single oral dose of betamethasone with intramuscular dexamethasone in the outpatient treatment of mild to moderate croup.
Methods: Children aged 6 months to 6 years presenting to a tertiary care pediatric emergency department (ED) with a modified Westley croup score of 0 to 11 were randomized to receive either 0.6 mg/kg IM dexamethasone or 0.4 mg/kg PO betamethasone. Croup score, heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse oximetry, and need for supplemental treatments were recorded at study entry and at 1, 2, and 4 hours after treatment. Follow-up data were collected by daily telephone follow-up on persistence of symptoms and the need for additional treatment or physician visits up to 7 days after the ED visit.
Results: Each study group contained 26 patients. Despite randomization, the mean baseline croup score was higher in the dexamethasone group (3.6 +/- 2.6 vs. 2.0 +/- 2.4, P = 0.03). Patients in both groups showed a significant reduction in the croup score after treatment, and there were no significant differences between croup scores at 4 hours (P = 0.18). Similarly, there were no differences between groups in the hospital admission rate, time to resolution of symptoms, need for additional treatments, or number of return ED visits.
Conclusion: There is no difference between oral betamethasone and intramuscular dexamethasonein the management of mild to moderate viral croup. It is palatable and does not require a nurse for administration, making it a good alternative for ambulatory management.