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J Pediatr. 2001 Jul;139(1):20-6.

Comparative efficacy of oral dexamethasone versus oral prednisone in acute pediatric asthma.

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Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Children's Hospital of The Kings Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia 23507, USA.



The objective was to determine whether 2 days of oral dexamethasone (DEX) is more effective than 5 days of oral prednisone/prednisolone (PRED) in improving symptoms and preventing relapse in children with acute asthma.


This was a prospective randomized trial of children (2 to 18 years old) who presented to the emergency department with acute asthma. PRED 2 mg/kg, maximum 60 mg (odd days) or DEX 0.6 mg/kg, maximum 16 mg (even days) was used. At discharge children in the PRED group were prescribed 4 daily doses (1 mg/kg/d, maximum 60 mg); children in the DEX group received a prepackaged dose (0.6 mg/kg, maximum 16 mg) to take the next day. The primary outcome was relapse within 10 days.


When DEX was compared with PRED, relapse rates (7.4% of 272 vs 6.9% of 261), hospitalization rates from the emergency department (11% vs 12%) or after relapse (20% vs 17%), and symptom persistence at 10 days (22% vs 21%) were similar. In the PRED group more children were excluded for vomiting in the emergency department (3% vs 0.3%; P =.008), more parents were noncompliant (4% vs. 0.4%; P =.004), and more children missed > or =2 days of school (19.5% vs. 13.2%; P =.05).


In children with acute asthma, 2 doses of dexamethasone provide similar efficacy with improved compliance and fewer side effects than 5 doses of prednisone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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