What is prednisolone used for in children?

Prednisolone is a corticosteroid medication that is commonly used to treat a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions in children. Some of the main uses of prednisolone in pediatrics include asthma, allergies, arthritis, blood disorders, kidney disease, digestive issues, and immune system disorders. Prednisolone works by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. It can quickly control symptoms and prevent flare-ups of chronic conditions. Understanding the uses, dosing, side effects, and safety considerations of prednisolone in children is important for parents and caregivers.


One of the most common uses of prednisolone in children is for asthma management. Prednisolone is an oral corticosteroid that is used to control acute asthma exacerbations and prevent future attacks. It is often prescribed for moderate to severe persistent asthma when inhaled corticosteroids and other long-term control medications are insufficient. Prednisolone works by reducing airway inflammation and sensitivity in the lungs. For acute asthma exacerbations, a short course of prednisolone for 3-10 days is typically used to rapidly gain control of symptoms. Longer tapering courses may be used in severe exacerbations. For flare prevention, a single dose of prednisolone every 1-2 weeks may be prescribed along with routine asthma medications.


The dose of prednisolone for asthma in children is based on the child’s weight. A typical dosage range is 1-2 mg/kg/day, given as a single dose in the morning or divided twice daily. The dose should be titrated down to the minimum effective amount. Higher doses are used for acute exacerbations while lower doses are used for maintenance between flares. Most courses of prednisolone for asthma last under 14 days. Long term use should be avoided due to risk of side effects.


Prednisolone is used to treat severe allergic reactions and control chronic allergy symptoms. For an acute allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis or a severe flare of hives, prednisolone can help quickly reduce inflammation, swelling, and immune response. A short course of 1-2 weeks may be prescribed. Prednisolone can also be used short-term to control allergy symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and asthma symptoms triggered by allergies. For chronic urticaria (hives) that does not respond to antihistamines, longer prednisolone therapy of a few weeks may be tried to suppress the immune reaction causing the hives.


The dosing of prednisolone for allergies is similar to asthma, typically 1-2 mg/kg/day. Higher doses up to 4 mg/kg/day may be used initially for severe acute allergic reactions. The lowest effective dose should be utilized long-term to minimize adverse effects.


Prednisolone is a frontline treatment for many pediatric rheumatic diseases, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and vasculitis. By suppressing the overactive immune system, prednisolone reduces inflammation and joint damage. It helps control arthritis symptoms like joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility. Prednisolone is usually taken in the mornings long-term at the lowest effective dose to keep the disease in remission while minimizing side effects. Children are closely monitored, with the dose adjusted based on disease activity. For severe flares, higher prednisolone doses may be used short-term.


Doses of 0.5-2 mg/kg/day are commonly used for rheumatologic conditions, with higher doses needed for severe flares. Once symptoms are under control, the prednisolone dose is gradually tapered to the minimum effective amount, often every 1-2 mg each week.

Blood Disorders

Prednisolone is used to treat certain blood disorders that involve an overactive immune system attacking the body’s own blood cells, such as immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), hemolytic anemia, and autoimmune neutropenia. In ITP, prednisolone helps reduce the destruction of platelets. In hemolytic anemia, it reduces destruction of red blood cells. In autoimmune neutropenia, it diminishes attacks on white blood cells called neutrophils. Prednisolone works to control these conditions by regulating the faulty autoimmune response. It may induce disease remission or be used with other treatments like intravenous immunoglobulin.


Doses of 1-2 mg/kg/day up to 60 mg/day are often used for blood disorders, tapered over a few weeks. Treatment may be long-term at lower doses to maintain normal blood cell counts.

Kidney Disease

Prednisolone is useful for managing several kidney conditions in children, such as nephrotic syndrome, IgA nephropathy, and lupus nephritis. In nephrotic syndrome, prednisolone reduces protein loss in the urine by controlling inflammation. In IgA nephropathy and lupus nephritis, it suppresses the autoimmune reaction attacking the kidneys. Prednisolone works to preserve kidney function and prevent worsening damage. Children with chronic kidney disease may remain on low dose prednisolone long-term if it helps control their symptoms and lab results.


For kidney involvement, prednisolone doses are typically 1-2 mg/kg/day or up to 60 mg/day. Higher doses may be used for symptom flares. The lowest effective dose should be identified for long-term management.

Digestive Issues

Prednisolone can help treat several inflammatory bowel conditions in children, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. By reducing intestinal inflammation, it can induce remission of symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and malnutrition. Children with autoimmune hepatitis may also be treated with prednisolone to suppress the immune attack on the liver. Prednisolone is often used short-term for symptom flares or as a bridge to other medications that have a slower onset of action.


Doses of 1-2 mg/kg/day up to 60 mg/day are commonly used for Crohn’s, colitis, and autoimmune hepatitis. Higher initial doses may be tried for severe flares. The prednisolone is tapered once symptoms are controlled.

Immune System Disorders

Prednisolone can help regulate immune system function in children with primary immunodeficiency disorders and autoimmune conditions. In immunodeficiencies like chronic granulomatous disease, it improves immune cell function and reduces infections. In autoimmune disorders like Guillain-Barre syndrome, prednisolone diminishes the immune attack on the nervous system. It may also be used for graft-versus-host disease, sarcoidosis, and other immune conditions requiring immunosuppression.


The dose of prednisolone for immune system disorders depends on the specific condition and severity. Typical doses range from 1-2 mg/kg/day to up to 60 mg/day if needed for rapid immune suppression in severe cases.

Side Effects

Prednisolone use does carry risks of side effects and adverse reactions, which should be weighed against the benefits. Some potential short-term side effects include increased appetite, weight gain, insomnia, headaches, mood changes, Cushingoid facies, skin changes, and slowed growth rate. Long-term side effects with extended use include osteoporosis, cataracts, hyperglycemia, elevated blood pressure, suppressed adrenal gland hormone production, and increased susceptibility to infections. These risks can often be minimized by using the lowest effective prednisolone dose for the shortest duration needed.

Growth Slowing

One major concern is the effect of prednisolone on growth in children. Prolonged use can suppress growth hormone secretion and reduce bone formation, resulting in slowed linear growth and bone mineralization. To reduce this risk, pediatric endocrinologists carefully monitor growth velocity and bone age. Strategies like alternate day dosing may be used. Daily doses less than 10 mg are less likely to impact growth. If substantial growth slowing occurs, reducing the prednisolone dose or adding growth hormone therapy may be warranted.

Safety Considerations

When used judiciously under medical guidance, prednisolone is generally safe for children. However, there are some important safety considerations:

  • Do not suddenly stop prednisolone, as adrenal insufficiency can result. Tapering is required after long-term use.
  • Monitor for signs of infection and report promptly – prednisolone suppresses immunity.
  • Have regular eye exams, as prednisolone increases risk of cataracts.
  • Be aware of behavioral changes like aggression or mood instability.
  • Watch for cushingoid effects like weight gain, face rounding, and striae.
  • Prevent varicella exposure, get appropriate vaccines before starting therapy.
  • Have regular bone density scans during prolonged use.
  • Monitor blood glucose regularly, especially if diabetes risk factors present.

With close medical supervision and monitoring for side effects, prednisolone is generally well tolerated long-term if needed for chronic conditions in children.


In summary, prednisolone is a beneficial corticosteroid medication for reducing inflammation and suppressing overactive immune responses in pediatric patients. It is widely used for conditions where the immune system is causing harm, such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, blood disorders, kidney disease, digestive diseases, and immunologic disorders. Prednisolone can induce disease remission and prevent flare-ups. It controls symptoms so that normal childhood development and activities are possible. However, side effects like growth slowing, infections, adrenal suppression, and thinning bones are a risk if used long term. Working with a pediatric specialist and monitoring for adverse effects are crucial to safely incorporate prednisolone treatment into childhood when it offers significant benefits. Used judiciously, prednisolone improves disease control and quality of life for many children with chronic inflammatory conditions.

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