A single versus multiple doses of dexamethasone in infants wheezing for the first time

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2008 Sep;43(9):844-50. doi: 10.1002/ppul.20845.


Rationale: Corticosteroid therapy is not routinely recommended in true bronchiolitis. However, since bronchiolitis and the first asthma attack are impossible to distinguish, some infants with the first wheezing episode receive corticosteroids. Optimal duration of corticosteroid therapy in this scenario is unknown. This study compared efficacy of multiple administrations and a single dose of dexamethasone in bronchiolitis.

Methods: In this randomized double blind trial, previously healthy outpatients 2-23 months of age with bronchiolitis and Respiratory Disease Assessment Instrument (RDAI) score 6 or more received 1 mg/kg of oral dexamethasone in the Emergency Department. Prior to discharge at 4 hr they were randomized to either 4 daily doses of dexamethasone 0.15 mg/kg or placebo equivalent. Primary outcome was the proportion of subsequent hospitalizations or prescribed trials of bronchodilator/corticosteroid therapy for dyspnea by day 6 in the groups. Secondary outcomes were changes in the RDAI to day 6, and proportions with unscheduled visits by days 6 and 28.

Results: The rate of primary outcome in the single dose group (SDG, N = 64) was 9/64 or 14.1% versus 7/61 or 11.5% in the multiple dose group (MDG, N = 61) [95% CI 0.09; 0.14]. Twelve (18.8%) children in the SDG had unscheduled medical visits by day 6 versus 11 (18.0%) children in the MDG [95% CI 0.13; 0.14]. On day 6 the RDAI decreased from 9.5 +/- 2.1 to 2.1 +/- 2.4 in the SDG and from 9.8 +/- 2.2 to 1.6 +/- 2.3 in the MDG [95% CI 0.36; 2.06]. Between days 7-28, 24/64 (37.5%) SDG infants returned for care versus 20/61 (32.8%) of the MDG [95% CI 0.12; 0.21].

Conclusions: Our study suggests that, in outpatients with bronchiolitis who receive dexamethasone, continuation of this agent beyond the initial dose does not provide significant benefit.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bronchiolitis / drug therapy*
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Respiratory Sounds / drug effects*
  • Time Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone