Steroids in Children

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Q. My son is two. He had a bad cold and began to wheeze. We called our doctor and were told to take him to the ER. At the ER, he was given four breathing treatments. They did a chest x-ray, which was clear. They want me to give him Prednisolone syrup and Albuterol in an inhaler. I would like your input on the use of steroids in a child this young. It makes me nervous.

A.  The idea of using steroids alarms most people especially parents. Steroid hormones are produced naturally by the body and giving extra steroids “boosts” the effect of the body’s own chemicals. Usually, these are prednisone/cortisone/prednisolone type drugs. They are given to mothers as the delivery of a premature baby draws near to increase lung maturation, to very sick babies, children and adults to augment the adrenal glands’ output and stabilize body function and they are also used to fight allergic or asthmatic reactions in children and adults of all ages.

They can be given orally, intravenously and by inhalation. They are often extremely effective during life-threatening events and just as effective in medium or long term treatment of asthma and bad allergy attacks such as hives, poison oak or bee stings.

More than you wanted to know? Maybe, but let me also add that these drugs should be avoided whenever possible and other treatment methods should come first.

Albuterol is a “good old” medicine used to stop spasm of the bronchial tubes and has been used to treat asthma and similar problems for decades. It is safe when used carefully.

After this initial, acute problem is under control, look to an allergist for guidance to avoid or minimize further problems.