Extensive literature supports using dexamethasone (DEX) in children presenting to the emergency department (ED) with mild-to-moderate asthma exacerbations; however, only limited studies have assessed this in hospitalized children. In this study, we evaluate the outcomes of DEX versus prednisone/prednisolone (PRED) use in children hospitalized for mild-to-moderate asthma exacerbations.


This multisite retrospective cohort study included children between 3 and 21 years of age hospitalized to a tertiary care children’s hospital system between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2017, with a primary discharge diagnosis of acute asthma exacerbation or status asthmaticus. Primary study outcome was mean hospital length of stay (LOS). Secondary outcomes included PICU transfers during initial hospitalization and ED revisits and hospital readmissions within 10 days after discharge. Generalized linear models were used to model logged LOS as a function of steroid and demographic and clinical covariates. The analysis was stratified by initial steroid timing.


Of the 1410 children included, 981 received only DEX and 429 received only PRED. For children who started oral steroids after hospital arrival, DEX cohort had a significantly shorter adjusted mean hospital LOS (DEX 24.43 hours versus PRED 29.38 hours; P = .03). For children who started oral steroids before hospital arrival, LOS did not significantly differ (DEX 26.72 hours versus PRED 25.20 hours; P = .45). Rates of PICU transfers, ED revisits, and hospital readmissions were uncommon events.


Children hospitalized with mild-to-moderate asthma exacerbations have significantly shorter hospital LOS when starting DEX rather than PRED on admission.

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