Inhaled corticosteroids compared to placebo for prevention of exercise induced bronchoconstriction

Exercise-induced asthma (bronchoconstriction) can limit a person's exercise endurance and lead to people avoiding exercise. This systematic review found that inhaled corticosteroids taken regularly can reduce exercise induced asthma in both children and adults.

Authors' conclusions: 

Inhaled corticosteroids used for 4 weeks or more before exercise testing significantly attenuated exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. The relative benefits of inhaled corticosteroids compared to other forms of exercise induced bronchoconstriction treatment (sodium cromoglycate, nedocromil sodium, salbutamol, and other anti-inflammatory agents) remains unclear.

Read the full abstract...

The pathogenesis of exercise induced bronchoconstriction is likely multifactorial and is not completely understood. Inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of exercise induced bronchoconstriction in asthmatic subjects but the evidence seems less strong in non-asthmatic subjects. The management of exercise induced bronchoconstriction focuses on prevention, through both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions.


The objectives of this review were to evaluate the use of inhaled corticosteroids in the treatment of exercise induced bronchoconstriction in a systematic way. Specifically, the review was designed to:

determine whether inhaled corticosteroids (compared to placebo) has an attenuating effect on exercise induced bronchoconstriction in adult and pediatric asthmatic patients;
estimate the magnitude of the attenuating effect.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Airways Review Group Specialised Register of trials, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, review articles, textbooks and reference list of articles.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised trials in adults or children comparing inhaled corticosteroids with placebo to prevent bronchoconstriction in patients with exercise induced bronchoconstriction.

Data collection and analysis: 

Trial quality assessment and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers.

Main results: 

The results from eight randomised controlled trials involving 162 participants were analyzed (two trials involving adults and six involving children). Combining results from the three parallel studies with at least 4 weeks duration of inhaled corticosteroids, the use of inhaled corticosteroids significantly attenuated the percent fall index in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (WMD (fixed): 11.74%; 95% CI: 10.06% to 13.42%). The result from one crossover study with duration of inhaled corticosteroids of 4 weeks revealed significant attenuation of percent fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 second ( WMD 11.70%; 95% CI: 7.51% to 15.90%) and the percent fall in peak expiratory flow ( WMD 11.50%; 95% CI: 6.31% to 16.69%). The small amount of data from placebo-controlled trials using a single treatment do not currently allow conclusions to be drawn.