One hundred and twenty-three children, aged 1.5-18 months, participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre study comparing different treatments for acute wheezing. The children were admitted to one of five participating paediatric departments. They were randomized into one of four treatment groups: (1) soluble prednisolone+placebo inhalation+terbutaline inhalation; (2) soluble placebo+budesonide inhalation+terbutaline inhalation; (3) soluble placebo+placebo inhalation+terbutaline inhalation; and (4) soluble placebo+placebo inhalation+normal saline inhalation. On admission, measurements of temperatures, respiratory rate and heart rate were made and once-a-day thereafter. Wheezing, accessory respiratory muscle use, prolonged expiration and general condition were scored on a scale ranging from 0 to 3. Significantly more treatment failures were recorded in the placebo group. Children from both steroid groups were discharged earlier than children from the terbutaline group. Compared with children from the placebo group, children from all three treatment groups had a greater improvement in symptom score, but this was significant for the budesonide group only.