Determine whether dexamethasone treatment added to salbutamol reduces time to readiness for discharge in patients with bronchiolitis and possible asthma.


We compared efficacy and safety of dexamethasone, 1 mg/kg, then 0.6 mg/kg for 4 more days, with placebo for acute bronchiolitis in patients with asthma risk, as determined by eczema or a family history of asthma in a first-degree relative. All patients received inhaled salbutamol. Time to readiness for discharge was the primary efficacy outcome.


Two hundred previously healthy infants diagnosed with bronchiolitis, median age 3.5 months, were enrolled. Five placebo recipients needed admission to intensive care unit during infirmary treatment (P = .02). Among 100 dexamethasone recipients, geometric mean time to readiness for discharge was 18.6 hours (95% confidence interval [CI], 14.9 to 23.1 hours); among 90 control patients, 27.1 hours (95% CI, 21.8 to 33.8 hours). The ratio, 0.69 (95% CI, 0.51 to 0.93), revealed a mean 31% shortening of duration to readiness for discharge favoring dexamethasone (P = .015). Twenty-two dexamethasone and 19 control patients were readmitted to the short stay infirmary in the week after discharge (P = .9). No hospitalizations or side effects were reported during 7 days of surveillance.


Dexamethasone with salbutamol shortened time to readiness for infirmary discharge during bronchiolitis episodes in patients with eczema or a family history of asthma in a first-degree relative. Infirmary and clinic visits in the subsequent week occurred similarly for the 2 groups.

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