Chronic cough in infants and children

Laryngoscope. 1986 Mar;96(3):316-22. doi: 10.1288/00005537-198603000-00015.


Chronic cough is an important, sometimes frustrating problem, often encountered by the otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon. Thirty-eight infants and children under age 16 with a normal chest roentgenogram were evaluated for chronic cough persisting for longer than 4 weeks. Specific therapy (rather than symptomatic treatment) of chronic cough lead to a resolution or control of the cough in 33 (87%). Cough-variant asthma was by far the most common cause of chronic cough, followed by sinusitis, aberrant innominate artery, psychogenic cough, and subglottic stenosis. In addition to a detailed history, physical examination, and chest roentgenogram, endoscopy, paranasal sinus roentgenograms, and pulmonary function studies with methacholine challenge testing were particularly effective for establishing a precise diagnosis. Chronic cough is best managed by determining the precise cause of the cough, then specifically treating the underlying disorder. Children with persistent cough and a normal chest roentgenogram should be referred promptly for evaluation by an otolaryngologist when the primary physician's initial efforts at diagnosis and treatment are unsuccessful. Endoscopy is under-utilized in practice and its importance is understated in the literature. It is particularly helpful in establishing a precise diagnosis in infants under 18 months of age.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Brachiocephalic Trunk / abnormalities
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Endoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sinusitis / complications
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis