In a double-blind trial we compared the efficacy and safety of inhaled salbutamol (albuterol), nebulized with oxygen by face mask, and subcutaneous epinephrine in 40 children with acute asthma. No significant difference between salbutamol and epinephrine was seen at any time for clinical score, respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure. PaO2, PaCO2, FVC, FEV1, FEV1/FVC, or FEF25-75%. PaO2 remained unchanged after salbutamol but increased significantly (P less than 0.05) after epinephrine. No significant difference occurred between the groups for repeat treatment, admission on initial visit, return to emergency room, admission on return, or total admissions. Significantly (P less than 0.01) increased adverse effects were seen within the group given epinephrine. We conclude that inhaled nebulized salbutamol and subcutaneous epinephrine are equally effective. In view of the lack of adverse effects and noninvasiveness of inhaled salbutamol, we recommend its use for the treatment of acute asthma in children.