Measuring persistent cough in children in epidemiological studies: development of a questionnaire and assessment of prevalence in two countries

Chest. 1999 Feb;115(2):434-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.115.2.434.


Study objective: Cough is a common symptom in children that is frequently encountered in general practice. However, most of the information on the prevalence of persistent cough has come from studies that use different, often ambiguous, definitions for persistent cough. It is therefore important that a validated questionnaire to accurately measure persistent cough is developed and is appropriate for use in different age groups of children and in different cultures. Such a questionnaire is essential for accurately measuring the prevalence of persistent cough and the factors associated with its occurrence.

Design: A parent-administered respiratory questionnaire was developed and administered twice during a 3-week interval pilot study to test repeatability. The questionnaire was then administered to a randomly selected cross-section of Australian children aged 5 to 7 years old and 8 to 11 years old (N = 511 and N = 654, respectively), and to 566 Nigerian children aged 8 to 11 years old.

Results: The new questionnaire was reliable, with most of the questions having a kappa value of above 0.6. The prevalence of persistent cough was similar in younger and older Australian children, but significantly less in Nigerian children (p < 0.001). Also, persistent cough was more prevalent in children of high rather than low socioeconomic status among older Australian children (p = 0.04).

Conclusions: The newly developed questionnaire will be an important tool in epidemiological studies for measuring the prevalence, morbidity, and risk factors of persistent cough in childhood. Although our findings showed that persistent cough does not occur more frequently in younger than in older Australian children, it is more frequent in Australian than in Nigerian children.

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*