Children's Cough Causes and Treatments (cont.)

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How is the cause of childhood cough diagnosed?

As in most medical evaluations taking a thorough history and conducting a comprehensive physical examination generally leads to a narrow list of diagnostic possibilities. Laboratory studies, X-ray studies and specialized testing by allergists or pulmonary specialists may occasionally be necessary to establish or confirm the cause of childhood cough.

Issues to be evaluated while taking a history of childhood cough include:

  • Duration and intensity of cough,
  • Character of the cough (for example, the "bark" of croup),
  • Events leading up to the cough (for example, possibility of foreign body aspiration),
  • Events which affect cough (for example, physical activity produces increase in cough and shortness of breath in wheezing),
  • Precipitating events associated with cough (for example, GERD symptoms associated with feeding),
  • Progressive worsening of symptoms and development of fever (for example, pneumonia as complication of upper repsiratory infection),
  • Environmental influences (for example, nasal allergy), and
  • Possible emotional component (for example, benign motor tic).

Testing may include:

  • Chest X-ray and/or sinus X-rays,
  • Pulmonary function tests - determines the adequacy of lung inspiration and expiration effort and capability,
  • Allergy testing,
  • Nasal swabs for specific infectious agents (for example, respiratory syncytial virus, pertussis whooping cough),
  • Specialized X-ray studies to help define anatomy (for example, barium swallow), and
  • Endoscopy and bronchoscopy (insertion of a flexible device with camera to evaluate the upper airway.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2015

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