Background: Acute respiratory illness, a leading cause of cough in children, accounts for a substantial proportion of childhood morbidity and mortality worldwide. In some children acute cough progresses to chronic cough (>4 weeks duration), impacting on morbidity and decreasing quality of life. Despite the importance of chronic cough as a cause of substantial childhood morbidity and associated economic, family and social costs, data on the prevalence, predictors, aetiology and natural history of the symptom are scarce. This study aims to comprehensively describe the epidemiology, aetiology and outcomes of cough during and after acute respiratory illness in children presenting to a tertiary paediatric emergency department.
Methods/design: A prospective cohort study of children aged <15 years attending the Royal Children's Hospital Emergency Department, Brisbane, for a respiratory illness that includes parent reported cough (wet or dry) as a symptom. The primary objective is to determine the prevalence and predictors of chronic cough (≥4 weeks duration) post presentation with acute respiratory illness. Demographic, epidemiological, risk factor, microbiological and clinical data are completed at enrolment. Subjects complete daily cough dairies and weekly follow-up contacts for 28(±3) days to ascertain cough persistence. Children who continue to cough for 28 days post enrolment are referred to a paediatric respiratory physician for review. Primary analysis will be the proportion of children with persistent cough at day 28(±3). Multivariate analyses will be performed to evaluate variables independently associated with chronic cough at day 28(±3).
Discussion: Our protocol will be the first to comprehensively describe the natural history, epidemiology, aetiology and outcomes of cough during and after acute respiratory illness in children. The results will contribute to studies leading to the development of evidence-based clinical guidelines to improve the early detection and management of chronic cough in children during and after acute respiratory illness.