Objectives: To review relevant literature and present evidence-based guidelines to assist general and specialist medical practitioners in the evaluation and management of children who present with chronic cough.
Methodology: The Cochrane, MEDLINE, and EMBASE databases, review articles, and reference lists of relevant articles were searched and reviewed by a single author. The date of the last comprehensive search was December 5, 2003, and that of the Cochrane database was November 7, 2004. The authors’ own databases and expertise identified additional articles.
Results/conclusions: Pediatric chronic cough (ie, cough in children aged < 15 years) is defined as a daily cough lasting for > 4 weeks. This time frame was chosen based on the natural history of URTIs in children and differs from the definition of chronic cough in adults. In this guideline, only chronic cough will be discussed. Chronic cough is subdivided into specific cough (ie, cough associated with other symptoms and signs suggestive of an associated or underlying problem) and nonspecific cough (ie, dry cough in the absence of an identifiable respiratory disease of known etiology). The majority of this section focuses on nonspecific cough, as specific cough encompasses the entire spectrum of pediatric pulmonology. A review of the literature revealed few randomized controlled trials for treatment of nonspecific cough. Management guidelines are summarized in two pathways. Recommendations are derived from a systematic review of the literature and were integrated with expert opinion. They are a general guideline only, do not substitute for sound clinical judgment, and are not intended to be used as a protocol for the management of all children with a coughing illness. Children (aged < 15 years) with cough should be managed according to child-specific guidelines, which differ from those for adults as the etiologic factors and treatments for children are sometimes different from those for adults. Cough in children should be treated based on etiology, and there is no evidence for using medications for the symptomatic relief of cough. If medications are used, it is imperative that the children are followed up and therapy with the medications stopped if there is no effect on the cough within an expected time frame. An evaluation of the time to response is important. Irrespective of diagnosis, environmental influences and parental expectations should be discussed and managed accordingly. Cough often impacts the quality of life of both children and parents, and the exploration of parental expectations and fears is often valuable in the management of cough in children.