Introduction: Worldwide asthma guidelines recommend short courses of oral prednisolone in children with acute exacerbations generating high prescription numbers. There is a paucity of evidence to inform the optimal dose and course duration. This has led to a variation in the recommendations for prednisolone prescribing. Our objective was to assess prednisolone prescribing practise for children with acute asthma in a representative sample of UK prescribers.
Methods: We developed an online questionnaire asking prescribers the prednisolone dosage, course duration and formulation used, whether they discussed oral prednisolone side effects with the family and at what child's age they changed from prescribing soluble to non-soluble formulations. This was sent to 1006 UK prescribers including Paediatric Respiratory Consultants, doctors in training, asthma nurses and General Practitioners.
Results: 200 complete responses were received (response rate 20%). The majority of surveyed prescribers follow the British National Formulary for Children recommendations on dosage rather than those included in the British Thoracic Society and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. Despite this, we highlighted a 4-fold variation in prednisolone dosages for acute asthma. The majority of prescribers chose 3 days as the course duration. High use of soluble formulations was highlighted.
Conclusions: There is wide variation in the dose of prednisolone prescribed for children with acute asthma in the UK. This reflects a relative lack of evidence that needs addressing.
Keywords: Asthma; corticosteroids; prednisolone; wheeze.