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Update on the utility of corticosteroids in acute pediatric respiratory disorders

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Corticosteroids, delivered systemically and by inhalation, are widely used for the treatment of multiple acute respiratory illnesses in children. However, the level of evidence to support the utility of this therapy varies between these different acute respiratory illnesses.


To summarize the evidence regarding the utility of corticosteroids in the management of common acute pediatric respiratory conditions and to highlights the controversies regarding their use.


Literature search of manuscripts describing the evidence regarding the efficacy of corticosteroids (systemic and inhaled) in the management of: acute asthma exacerbation among school age children, acute episodic wheeze among preschool children, viral croup, and acute viral bronchiolitis.


Current evidence indicates that systemic corticosteroids provide benefits for the treatment of acute asthma exacerbations in school age children, mainly in the acute care setting. In addition, high dose inhaled corticosteroid therapy administered in the Emergency Department appears to have comparable effect for the prevention of asthma-related hospital admission as systemic corticosteroids in this age group. In contrast, most available studies have not shown benefit for systemic corticosteroids during acute wheezing episodes in preschool children. Systemic corticosteroids decrease symptoms and the rate of hospital admissions in patients with severe croup; however, corticosteroids have no role in the treatment of acute bronchiolitis and their use in this condition should be discouraged.


Corticosteroids treatment response varies between the acute respiratory illnesses presented in this review. Future research should aim to fill the current gaps-of-knowledge regarding the utility this intervention such as the identification of specific wheezing phenotypes among preschool children which might benefit from systemic corticosteroids as a treatment for acute viral wheeze.
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Keywords: Corticosteroids; asthma; bronchiolitis; children; croup; wheezing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2015

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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