Cough may be the first overt sign of disease of the airways or lungs when it represents more than a defense mechanism, and may by its persistence become a helpful pointer of potential disease for both patient and physician. On the other hand, impairment or absence of the coughing mechanism can be harmful and even fatal; this is why cough suppression is rarely indicated in childhood. Pediatricians are concerned more with the etiology of the cough and making the right diagnosis. Whereas chronic cough in adults has been universally defined as a cough that lasts more than 8 weeks, in childhood, different timing has been reported. Many reasons support defining a cough that lasts more than 4 weeks in preschool children as chronic, however; and this is particularly true when the cough is wet. During childhood, the respiratory tract and nervous system undergo a series of anatomical and physiological maturation processes that influence the cough reflex. In addition, immunological response undergoes developmental and memorial processes that make infection and congenital abnormalities the overwhelming causes of cough in preschool children. Cough in children should be treated on the basis of etiology, and there is no evidence in support of the use of medication for symptomatic cough relief or adopting empirical approaches. Most cases of chronic cough in preschool age are caused by protracted bacterial bronchitis, tracheobronchomalacia, foreign body aspiration, post-infectious cough or some combination of these. Other causes of chronic cough, such as bronchiectasis, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, and upper respiratory syndrome appear to be less frequent in this age group. The prevalence of each depends on the population in consideration, the epidemiology of infectious diseases, socioeconomic aspects, and the local health system.
Keywords: Cough; Foreign body aspiration; Post-infectious cough; Preschool; Protracted bronchitis; Tracheobronchomalacia.