Dexamethasone Versus Prednisone for Pediatric Acute Asthma Exacerbations: Specialists' Practice Patterns

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021 Jul 1;37(7):343-347. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002036.


Background and objective: Dexamethasone has emerged as a viable alternative to prednisone in the treatment of pediatric acute asthma exacerbations, with the potential for improved compliance secondary to decreased frequency of dosing, improved taste, and decreased cost. The objective of this study is to identify whether providers are prescribing dexamethasone for pediatric acute asthma exacerbations. Secondary objectives are to describe variation in practice between different specialties and to identify the commonly used dosing and frequency for dexamethasone.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional, descriptive study with an anonymous, web-based survey ( The survey population included all fellowship program directors listed on FRIEDA Online for pediatric emergency medicine, pediatric pulmonology, and allergy and immunology, and emergency medicine residency directors through the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors listserv. Program directors were contacted via e-mail up to 5 times for 3 months.

Results: Overall, 300 respondents (70% of the program directors) completed the survey. Response rates by specialty varied from 60% to 94%. One third of providers are using dexamethasone, whereas just more than half of providers (51%) are prescribing a 5-day prednisone course. The preferred maximum dose for dexamethasone is 10 mg (45%), with 82% using a dose of 0.6 mg/kg.Pediatric emergency medicine fellowship directors demonstrated a preference for dexamethasone (59%). Prednisone is favored by emergency medicine (56%), pediatric pulmonology (89%), and allergy and immunology (93%) program directors.

Conclusions: Although most pediatric emergency medicine academic physicians have transitioned to using dexamethasone to treat acute pediatric asthma exacerbations, other specialties continue to favor prednisone.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Specialization*


  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone