A study was performed to compare the efficacy and safety of two therapeutic regimens for the treatment of children presenting to the emergency department with acute asthma. A regimen of inhaled salbutamol alone was compared to inhaled salbutamol combined with ipratropium bromide. Twenty-five children ranging in age from 5 to 15 years were enrolled in the study. Children with FEV1 less than or equal to 55% predicted were eligible to participate in the study. Subjects were randomized in a double-blind fashion into one of two treatment groups. Both groups received an initial dose of salbutamol by nebulizer of 150 micrograms/kg (0.03 cc/kg), followed by six consecutive doses of 50 micrograms/kg (0.01 cc/kg) at 20-minute intervals. In one group of subjects, 250 micrograms (1.0 ml) of ipratropium bromide respirator solution was added to the salbutamol administered at the time of the initial inhalation, and at 40 and 80 minutes, whereas the remaining subjects received a placebo with salbutamol at those times. Formal one-way statistical ANOVA with change in percent predicted FEV1 as a response variable confirmed there was a statistically significant difference at all time points caused by drug regimen during the 150-minute observation period. There was no significant difference in side effects reported in the two groups. Significant additional bronchodilation achieved with salbutamol and ipratropium bromide together indicates that there is likely a substantial cholinergic element to the bronchospasm observed in acute exacerbations of asthma in the pediatric age group.