Children that continue to cough for weeks after an acute respiratory illness should be seen by their pediatrician and examined for the possibility of an underlying lung disease, according to a new study.
That’s one of the lessons from a Queensland, Australia, study of 839 children presenting to Emergency Room Departments with an acute respiratory illness.
The researchers found that 20 percent of the children still had a persistent cough when followed up 4 weeks later.
When those children were examined, 47 percent were diagnosed with protracted bacterial bronchitis.
When reviewed by a pulmonologist, 31% of the children with chronic cough were found to have an undiagnosed chronic lung disease, such as asthma, obstructive sleep apnea and bronchiectasis, a condition where the walls of the airway thicken as a result of chronic inflammation or infection.
The finding of high rates of chronic cough with an underlying disease shows the importance of making sure a child is examined early or has a follow up appointment if he or she continues coughing after a respiratory illness.
Lead author, Dr. Kerry-Ann O’Grady (PhD), an epidemiologist at the Centre for Children’s Health Research in Brisbane, said it was notable that one-third of the children with chronic cough, in the study, had wet cough — a key symptom of persistent lower airway bacterial infection.
If not treated promptly, the underlying conditions revealed in the reviews could lead to irreversible lung damage, she said.
“If you can knock it off and pick it up early in kids, then you’re likely to lead to long-term better health outcome.”