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Lancet. 2003 Nov 1;362(9394):1433-8.

Efficacy of a short course of parent-initiated oral prednisolone for viral wheeze in children aged 1-5 years: randomised controlled trial.

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Leicester Children's Asthma Centre, Institute for Lung Health, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.



Episodic wheeze triggered by viral colds is common in children aged between 1 and 5 years (preschool viral wheeze). Most affected children are asymptomatic by age 6 years. Persistence of wheeze is associated with above-average systemic eosinophil priming. Use of parental-initiated oral prednisolone is recommended at the first sign of preschool viral wheeze. However, evidence for this treatment strategy is conflicting. We therefore aimed to assess the efficacy of a short course of oral prednisolone for preschool viral wheeze, with stratification for systemic eosinophil priming.


Children aged 1-5 years admitted to hospital with viral wheeze were allocated to either a high-primed or low-primed stratum according to amounts of serum eosinophil cationic protein and eosinophil protein X, and randomised to parent-initiated prednisolone (20 mg one daily for 5 days) or placebo for the next episode. The primary outcomes were the 7-day mean daytime and night-time respiratory symptom scores, which were analysed by mean differences between treatment groups.


108 children were randomised to placebo and 109 to prednisolone. Outcome data were available for 120 (78%) of 153 children who had a further episode of viral wheeze, of whom 51 received prednisolone and 69 placebo. Mean daytime (difference in means -0.01 [-0.22 to 0.20]) and night-time (0.10 [-0.12 to 0.32]) respiratory symptom scores and need for hospital admission did not differ between treatment groups. Within the high-primed (n=59) and low-primed (n=61) strata there was no difference in primary outcome between treatment groups.


There is no clear benefit of a short course of parent-initiated oral prednisolone for viral wheeze in children aged 1-5 years even in those with above-average eosinophil priming.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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