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Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2008;21(1):88-97. Epub 2007 Jan 23.

Inhaled corticosteroids for recurrent respiratory symptoms in preschool children in general practice: randomized controlled trial.

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Department of General Practice, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 196, 9700 AD Groningen, The Netherlands. <>



Therapy with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) is beneficial in patients with asthma. However, in preschool children with symptoms like cough, wheeze, or shortness of breath diagnosing asthma is difficult. Therefore, the role of ICS in the management of preschool children with recurrent respiratory symptoms is unclear. We assessed the effectiveness of ICS in preschool children with recurrent respiratory symptoms in general practice.


In this multicenter, randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial, 96 children aged 1-5 years consulting their general practitioners for recurrent respiratory symptoms and in whom treatment with ICS was considered by the general practitioner were randomly allocated to receive ICS (fluticasone propionate 200 mcg/day by metered dose inhaler/spacer combination) or placebo for 6 months. Outcome assessments were carried out 1, 3, and 6 months after randomization. The primary outcome measure was the symptom score (cough, shortness of breath and wheeze during day and night) as measured by a symptom diary card. Secondary endpoints were symptom-free days, use of rescue medication, adverse events, and lung function variables as measured by the interrupter technique and forced oscillation technique.


During the 6 months treatment period, symptoms improved in both groups, with no differences between ICS and placebo. In addition, none of the secondary outcome parameters showed differences between both treatment groups.


ICS treatment has no beneficial effect in preschool children with recurrent respiratory symptoms in general practice. We therefore recommend a watchful waiting policy with only symptomatic treatment in these children. General practitioners and pediatricians should be aware of the high probability of overtreatment when prescribing ICS in these children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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