• aspiration;
  • asthma;
  • immune deficiency;
  • pneumonia;
  • recurrent pneumonia


Because the few previous studies on underlying causes of recurrent pneumonia in children have come from tertiary care referral centres where selection bias may be important, the aim of this study was to examine underlying causes of recurrent pneumonia in children in a general hospital.


We performed a retrospective chart review in a general hospital of 62 children with recurrent pneumonia over a 7.5 years period.


In 19 patients (30.6%), no cause was identified, commonly because favourable natural history obviated the need for a full and invasive diagnostic work-up. Other underlying causes included recurrent aspiration in 16 patients (25.7%), lung disease (airway stenosis, bronchiectasis, middle lobe syndrome or tracheooesophageal fistula) in 10 patients (16.1%) and immune deficiency in 10 patients (16.1%). In contrast to previous studies, asthma was never diagnosed as an underlying cause, but diagnostic confusion between asthma (or recurrent upper respiratory tract infections) and recurrent pneumonia was common.


The cause of recurrent pneumonia in children remains elusive in almost a third of patients, partly because the favourable natural history consistent with immune system maturation eliminates the need for further diagnostic procedures. Asthma is more likely a differential diagnostic consideration than an underlying cause of recurrent pneumonia in children. A standardised diagnostic guideline is needed to improve knowledge on causes of recurrent pneumonia in children.