Recently the knemometer, a lower leg length measuring device, has been introduced for sensitive assessment of systemic activity of exogeneous glucocorticoids in children. The aim of this study was to assess by means of knemometry whether the topical glucocorticoid budesonide affects short-term growth in children with atopic dermatitis. Fourteen children 5 to 12 years old were studied in an open longitudinal trial with three periods of 2 weeks duration. In periods 1 (run-in) and 3 (run-out), the children were treated with emollient. In period 2, budesonide cream 0.025% was followed by emollient twice daily to all of the body except the face. Eczema was evaluated according to a score based on extent and activity. Knemometry was performed twice weekly. Compared to the run-in and run-out periods the mean growth rate during budesonide treatment was reduced by 0.11 mm/wk (p > .05) and 0.40 mm/wk (p < .05), respectively. The mean growth rate during run-out was increased by 0.29 mm/wk as compared to run-in (p < .05). Compared to run-in the mean severity indices during budesonide treatment and run-out were reduced by 1.55 (p < .05) and 1.55 points (p <.05), respectively. The concomitant variations in lower leg growth rate and disease activity suggest that short-term treatment with topical glucocorticoids may provide a better growth potential during the weeks after withdrawal of the treatment. Whether this is due to improved disease control needs further study. Being a noninvasive method, knemometry may be useful for comparing different topical glucocorticoids and administration regimens in children in whom vasoconstrictor assays are difficult.