Use of Systemic Corticosteroids for Atopic Dermatitis: International Eczema Council Consensus Statement

Br J Dermatol. 2018 Mar;178(3):768-775. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15928. Epub 2018 Jan 28.


Background: Guidelines discourage the use of systemic corticosteroids for atopic dermatitis (AD), but their use remains widespread.

Objectives: To reach consensus among an international group of AD experts on the use of systemic corticosteroids for AD.

Methods: A survey consisting of statements accompanied by visual analogue scales ranging from 'strongly disagree' to 'neutral' to 'strongly agree' was distributed to the International Eczema Council (IEC). Consensus was reached in agreement on a statement if < 30% of respondents marked to the left of 'neutral' towards 'strongly disagree'.

Results: Sixty of 77 (78%) IEC members participated. Consensus was reached on 12 statements, including that systemic corticosteroids should generally be avoided but can be used rarely for severe AD under certain circumstances, including a lack of other treatment options, as a bridge to other systemic therapies or phototherapy, during acute flares in need of immediate relief, in anticipation of a major life event or in the most severe cases. If used, treatment should be limited to the short term. Most respondents agreed that systemic corticosteroids should never be used in children, but consensus was not reached on that statement. The conclusions of our expert group are limited by a dearth of high-quality published evidence. If more stringent consensus criteria were applied (e.g. requiring < 20% of respondents marking towards 'strongly disagree'), consensus would have been reached on fewer statements.

Conclusions: Based on expert opinion from the IEC, routine use of systemic corticosteroids for AD is generally discouraged and should be reserved for special circumstances.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Consensus
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Dermatologic Agents