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Asthma and protracted bronchitis: Who fares better during an acute respiratory infection?


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    Funding: Asthma Foundation of Queensland and Royal Children's Hospital Foundation.

Miss Helen Petsky, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Children's Hospital, Herston, Brisbane, QLD 4029, Australia. Fax: +61 7 3636 1958; email:


Aim:  Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are common in children, and symptoms range from days to weeks. The aim of this study was to determine if children with asthma have more severe ARI episodes compared with children with protracted bronchitis and controls.

Methods:  Parents prospectively scored their child's next ARI using the Canadian acute respiratory illness and flu scale (CARIFS) and a validated cough diary (on days 1–7, 10 and 14 of illness). Children were age- and season-matched.

Results:  On days 10 and 14 of illness, children with protracted bronchitis had significantly higher median CARIFS when compared with children with asthma and healthy controls. On day 14, the median CARIFS were: asthma = 4.1 (interquartile range (IQR) 4.0), protracted bronchitis = 19.6 (IQR 25.8) and controls = 4.1 (IQR 5.25). The median cough score was significantly different between groups on days 1, 7, 10 and 14 (P < 0.001). A significantly higher proportion of children with protracted bronchitis (63%) were still coughing at day 14 in comparison with children with asthma (24%) and healthy controls (26%).

Conclusion:  Children with protracted bronchitis had the most severe ARI symptoms and higher percentage of respiratory morbidity at day 14 in comparison with children with asthma and healthy controls.