Placebo controlled trial of systemic corticosteroids in acute childhood asthma

Acta Paediatr Scand. 1990 Nov;79(11):1052-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1990.tb11382.x.


In a randomised controlled trial 38 asthmatic children aged 2-11 yr who had not received regular oral or inhaled steroids during the previous year, were treated with a standard regime of nebulised salbutamol and intravenous aminophylline plus either hydrocortisone and oral prednisolone for 5 days, or placebo. The children were observed throughout their hospital stay and for 3 months afterwards. There was a greater fall in heart rates in the steroid treated group on the second day of treatment (mean diff. 16 beats/min) and at discharge (mean diff. 13 beats/min); p less than 0.025. Peak Expiratory Flow Rates recorded in 26 children, 13 in each group, showed more improvement on day 2 in those given steroids (mean diff 16% predicted); p less than 0.05. This difference was not apparent at discharge but 9 children treated with steroids were clinically wheeze-free when they left hospital compared with 3 in the placebo group, p less than 0.05. There were no differences in respiratory rate, pulsus paradoxus and arterial oxygen saturation. Trends in duration of hospital stay and relapse rate during the succeeding 3 months favoured active treatment. These findings support the use of systemic corticosteroids in addition to high dose bronchodilators to treat 'non steroid dependent' children hospitalised with acute severe asthma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Albuterol / pharmacology
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use
  • Aminophylline / pharmacology
  • Aminophylline / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate / drug effects
  • Placebos
  • Prednisolone / pharmacology
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use*


  • Placebos
  • Aminophylline
  • Prednisolone
  • Albuterol
  • Oxygen
  • Hydrocortisone