Background: There are no data currently available on the correct schedule for the initiation of treatment with nebulized suspension of budesonide in children with recurrent wheezing episodes. We compared the efficacy and safety of starting with a high dose followed by a stepwise decrease to a continuous low dose.
Methods: In a double-blind design, 42 children aged 6 months to 3 years were randomly allocated to receive either a high starting dose of 1 mg budesonide twice daily followed by a stepwise decrease of 25% every second day for 1 week (group A) or a low dose of 0.25 mg twice daily for 1 week (group B). Efficacy was assessed with daily symptom scores and the systemic effect of the corticosteroids with the adrenocorticotropic hormone test.
Results: The two groups were comparable for all parameters evaluated. During the first week of treatment, there was a significant decrease in asthmatic symptomatology only in group A: a 59% decrease for wheezing (p = 0.0001), 39% for diurnal cough (p = 0.036), and 39% for nocturnal cough (p = 0.04). Mean time to clinical response was 3.0 days in group A and 5.7 days in group B (p = 0.02). This early improvement was sustained for the rest of the follow-up period. The high dose starting schedule was not associated with any change in serum cortisol level.
Conclusions: The administration of nebulized suspension of budesonide at a high starting dose schedule followed by a rapid (1 week) stepwise decrease yields a significant early improvement in asthma symptoms and causes no change in serum cortisol levels.