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Emerg Med Australas. 2012 Feb;24(1):79-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2011.01475.x. Epub 2011 Sep 4.

How fast does oral dexamethasone work in mild to moderately severe croup? A randomized double-blinded clinical trial.

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  • 1Emergency Department, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.



For children with croup controversy remains over dosage and time to onset of action of oral steroids. The Cochrane Collaboration and other reviews have suggested 0.6 mg/kg dexamethasone be used (despite some evidence that 0.15 mg/kg is effective) with no expectation of benefit before 4-6 h. This randomized double-blinded clinical trial examines whether 0.15 mg/kg dexamethasone works by 30 min.


Children with croup aged above 6 months presenting to a tertiary paediatric ED with a Westley croup score of mild to moderate range (scores 1-6 out of 17) were randomized to receive either 0.15 mg/kg dexamethasone or oral placebo solution. Vital signs and croup score were recorded at study entry and every 10 min up to 1 h after administration of the study drug. The main outcome measure was croup score at 30 min.


Each group contained 35 children. Baseline characteristics were similar, except for respiratory rate, which was higher in the placebo group. There was a growing trend to a lower croup score in the dexamethasone group, evident from 10 min and statistically significant from 30 min.


For children with croup an oral dose of 0.15 mg/kg dexamethasone offers benefit by 30 min, much earlier than the 4 h suggested by the Cochrane Collaboration. This result might encourage doctors to treat more children with all severities of croup being less worried about potential side-effects and delayed benefit.

© 2011 The Authors. EMA © 2011 Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and Australasian Society for Emergency Medicine.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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