How to Handle Chronic Cough in Kids:
December 01, 2003
ABSTRACT: A cough is considered chronic when it persists for 3 or more weeks. Typically, chronic cough is a lingering manifestation of a viral upper respiratory tract infection; other, more serious causes-such as asthma, sinusitis, or gastro- esophageal reflux-must also be considered. Look to the history for diagnostic clues and order a chest film, which may point to pneumonia, hyperinflation, atelectasis, or cardiac or pulmonary abnormality. Diagnostic test methods will depend, in part, on the child's age; for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against imaging of the sinuses in children 6 years or younger. Pulmonary function tests can be useful in diagnosing asthma if the child is able to cooperate. Consider ordering a barium swallow for a very young child whose cough may be the result of a vascular anomaly. A pH probe study can help you determine whether cough is secondary to gastroesophageal reflux. Treatment is directed at the underlying cause.