Prolonged cough in children is a serious warning sign

Medical advice to persistently cough in children

Longer-lasting cough in children is often an indication of a bacterial infection or another respiratory illness, reports the professional association of pediatricians (BVKJ). A recent study had shown that coughing in children that persisted for four weeks was often due to chronic respiratory disease.

In their current study, the scientists at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane (Australia) came to the conclusion that almost a third of the children who were examined by a pulmonologist (pulmonologist) because of the persistent coughing had a previously undetected chronic lung disease exhibited. In addition, almost half of the children (47 percent) had protracted bacterial bronchitis, reports the BVKJ.

Persistent cough often indicates chronic illness

According to the BVKJ, if children continue to cough after an acute respiratory illness, this should be assessed as a warning signal. According to the results of the current study, the long-lasting cough is often the only symptom of a chronic respiratory disease. The research team around Dr. Queensland University of Technology's Kerry-Ann F. O'Grady used 839 children under the age of 15 to cough to visit a pediatric emergency room to find out what the diagnoses were. The scientists published their results in the specialist journal “Archives of Disease in Childhood”.

The children excluded from the study were those who already had a chronic lung disease (except asthma) and / or who had an immunodeficiency. Children who used certain immunomodulating drugs 30 days before visiting the emergency room were also not included in the study, the BVKJ explains.

Chronic lung disease is often noted

Most children (627; 74.8 percent) had cough less than seven days before the start of the study. After a period of four weeks, however, 20.4 percent (171 children) of the subjects were still coughing. Of these 171 children, 117 (68.4 percent) were examined by a pediatric pulmonologist and 36 children (30.8 percent of 171) were diagnosed with a previously unrecognized chronic lung disease. 55 children (47 percent) showed protracted bacterial bronchitis. In addition, 37 children (31.6 percent) received more than one diagnosis, the BVKJ reports on the study results.

Asthma and tracheobronchomalacia are relatively common

The chronic respiratory diseases of the children were often asthma (17 cases) or tracheobronchomalacia (relaxation of the trachea; 13 cases). Four children also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, four children suffered from breathing disorders (aspiration disorders) and four from bronchiectasis (bronchodilation), according to the BVKJ. Acute diseases such as recurrent upper respiratory infections (in fourteen children) or pneumonia (four cases) were also noted.

Impending irreversible lung damage

Since chronic coughing hides a chronic illness - or a disease that can become chronic - in many cases, it should be taken seriously in any case. In the worst case, an untreated chronic cough can lead to irreversible lung damage and chronic lung diseases, reports the BVKJ, citing the study authors. In addition, a chronic cough affects the quality of life and means stress for the parents.

The cough is usually caused by a viral infection, which usually heals over time. But this is far from the case in all cases. If the cough persists for more than two weeks, according to the BVKJ, a medical examination is urgently required, even if the child was already examined by a pediatrician at the beginning of the illness. (fp)

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