Asthma is a prevalent chronic disease of the respiratory system and acute asthma exacerbations are among the most common causes of presentation to the emergency department (ED) and admission to hospital particularly in children. Bronchial airways inflammation is the most prominent pathological feature of asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), through their anti-inflammatory effects have been the mainstay of treatment of asthma for many years. Systemic and ICS are also used in the treatment of acute asthma exacerbations. Several international asthma management guidelines recommend the use of systemic corticosteroids in the management of moderate to severe acute asthma early upon presentation to the ED. On the other hand, ICS use in the management acute asthma has been studied in different contexts with encouraging results in some and negative in others. This review sheds some light on the role of systemic and ICS in the management of acute asthma and discusses the current evidence behind their different ways of application particularly in relation to new developments in the field.
Keywords: Acute asthma; emergency department; inhaled corticosteroids; systemic corticosteroids.