While the burden of chronic cough in children has been documented, etiologic factors across multiple settings and age have not been described. In children with chronic cough, we aimed (1) to evaluate the burden and etiologies using a standard management pathway in various settings, and (2) to determine the influence of age and setting on disease burden and etiologies and etiology on disease burden. We hypothesized that the etiology, but not the burden, of chronic cough in children is dependent on the clinical setting and age.
From five major hospitals and three rural-remote clinics, 346 children (mean age 4.5 years) newly referred with chronic cough (> 4 weeks) were prospectively managed in accordance with an evidence-based cough algorithm. We used a priori definitions, timeframes, and validated outcome measures (parent-proxy cough-specific quality of life [PC-QOL], a generic QOL [pediatric quality of life (PedsQL)], and cough diary).
The burden of chronic cough (PC-QOL, cough duration) significantly differed between settings (P = .014, 0.021, respectively), but was not influenced by age or etiology. PC-QOL and PedsQL did not correlate with age. The frequency of etiologies was significantly different in dissimilar settings (P = .0001); 17.6% of children had a serious underlying diagnosis (bronchiectasis, aspiration, cystic fibrosis). Except for protracted bacterial bronchitis, the frequency of other common diagnoses (asthma, bronchiectasis, resolved without specific-diagnosis) was similar across age categories.
The high burden of cough is independent of children’s age and etiology but dependent on clinical setting. Irrespective of setting and age, children with chronic cough should be carefully evaluated and child-specific evidence-based algorithms used.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials registry; No.: ACTRN12607000526471; URL: www.anzctr.org.au