Wheezing attacks caused by a virus may not be relieved with the use of Oral steroids, a study has said.
Attacks of wheezing caused by viral infections in the upper respiratory tract are common in preschool children between the ages of ten months and six years.
Preschool children who visit hospital with such symptoms are commonly treated with a short course of prednisolone - a steroid which is used to reduce inflammation in the airway and which is very effective in treating attacks of allergic asthma in older children and adults.
But a new study from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry shows that the drugs do not cut the amount of time children have to spend in hospital or ease their illness.
For the study, Professor Jonathan Grigg, a paediatrician at Barts and The London's, Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, along with colleagues from Leicester and Nottingham Universities, studied a group of 700 children between the ages of 10 and 60 months, who presented to hospital with an attack of wheezing associated with a viral infection.
Half were treated with oral prednisolone, half with a placebo, and symptoms monitored by health care professionals.
The researchers found no significant difference in the length of time the children spent in hospital between the placebo group and the prednisolone group.
These findings were consistent with a previous study conducted by the team, where the oral steroid was administered by parents in the home.
"The result of this large trial suggests that oral prednisolone should not be routinely given to preschool children presenting to the hospital with virus-induced wheezing," Grigg said.
The study is published in the January edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.