Purpose of review
To review recent evidence on the effectiveness of glucocorticosteroids in the treatment and prevention of anaphylaxis.
Glucocorticosteroids are often used in the management of anaphylaxis in an attempt to reduce the severity of the acute reaction and decrease the risk of biphasic/protracted reactions. A recent Cochrane systematic review failed to identify any randomized controlled or quasi-randomized trials investigating the effectiveness of glucocorticosteroids in the emergency management of anaphylaxis. In contrast, randomized controlled trials have been undertaken of glucocorticosteroids, given individually or in combination with other drugs, in preventing anaphylaxis. Systematic reviews of these prophylactic approaches undertaken in patients being investigated with iodinated contrast media and treated with snake anti-venom therapy have found routine prophylaxis to be of questionable value. Trials of a combination of glucocorticosteroids and H1/H2-antihistamine premedication for preventing allergen immunotherapy-triggered anaphylaxis have yielded mixed results.
Glucocorticosteroids should be regarded, at best, as a second-line agent in the emergency management of anaphylaxis, and administration of epinephrine should therefore not be delayed whilst glucocorticosteroids are drawn up and administered. Routine premedication with glucocorticosteroids in patients receiving iodinated contrast media, snake anti-venom therapy or allergen immunotherapy is unlikely to confer clinical benefit.