A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a placebo was no better than steroids in treating bronchiolitis in children.

The study compared hospitalization rates for 600 children between the ages of 2 months and 12 months who visited emergency rooms with moderate-to-severe bronchiolitis. Patients were treated with either a dose of dexamethasone (a glucocorticoid form of steroid medication) or a placebo and evaluated after 1 hour, and again at 4 hours.

The hospital admission rate for both groups was identical at nearly 40%. Both groups improved during treatment, but the placebo group did as well as the group treated with active medication.

“We learned that a commonly used treatment doesn’t work,” said Howard M. Corneli, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and the principal investigator on the study. “Now that we’ve demonstrated glucocorticoids aren’t effective in treating bronchiolitis, we can focus our efforts on finding better treatments and better preventive strategies.”

Corneli says the best solution to the problem of bronchiolitis might be to find a vaccine for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which accounts for 50% to 80% of all bronchiolitis cases.