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Treat Respir Med. 2004;3(3):139-45.

The role of corticosteroids in the treatment of croup.

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  • 1Emergency Department, Primary Children's Medical Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 84311, USA.


Since the 1960s, corticosteroids have been used in the treatment of laryngotracheobronchitis, commonly called croup. Initially, their use for croup was controversial and highly debated in the literature. The evidence over the last 2 decades has strongly favored corticosteroid use in croup management. It has now become the standard of care to use corticosteroids in moderate-to-severe croup. Corticosteroid use in these patients has been shown to reduce hospitalizations, length of illness, and subsequent treatments when compared with placebo. By extrapolation, corticosteroids may even play a role in patients with milder croup presenting for medical assessment. The current recommendation is to treat patients with moderate-to-severe croup with oral dexamethasone in a dose of 0.6 mg/kg (maximum 10-12 mg) because of its ease of administration, easy availability, and low cost. Intramuscular dexamethasone is reserved for patients who are vomiting or who are in severe respiratory distress and unable to tolerate oral medication. Nebulized budesonide, used commonly in some geographic locations, has been found to be effective, but is often not used in favor of the oral corticosteroids. Controversy still exists over the use of corticosteroids in mild and potentially self-limiting disease. Some evidence exists for treating these patients; some clinicians use corticosteroids for all patients with croup who seek care regardless of the severity of the illness. Patients with mild disease may be candidates for lower doses of dexamethasone such as 0.15-0.3 mg/kg. Corticosteroid-induced complications in croup are rare. Overall, corticosteroids have gained universal acceptance for the treatment of croup and have been found to be effective, well tolerated, and inexpensive.

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