Respiratory symptoms in post-infancy children: A Dutch pediatric cohort study

Esther De Vries*, Roeland W. N. M. Van Hout

*Corresponding author for this work

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Aim: To study the pattern of respiratory symptoms in children in the general population. Method: We followed a cohort of children for up to 2 years through parents completing weekly online questionnaires in the Child-Is-Ill study (“Kind-en-Ziekmeting” in Dutch); the study was running 2012–2015. Inclusion criteria were “an ordinary child” (according to the parents) and <18 years old at inclusion. We especially encouraged participation of post-infancy children. Age at inclusion, sex, smoking exposure, allergy in the family, and frequent infections in the family were noted. Pearson's correlation, principal component analysis, latent class analysis, latent profile analysis, linear regression, and linear mixed effects regression were used in the statistical analyses. Results: Data were collected on 55,524 childweeks in 755 children (50% girls; median age, 7 years; interquartile range, 4–11 years, 97% ≥2 years at inclusion), with reported symptom(s) in 8,425 childweeks (15%), leading to school absenteeism in 25%, doctor's visits in 12%, and parental sick leave in 8%; symptoms lasting ≥3 weeks were rare (2% of episodes). Linear mixed effects regression showed significant, but only limited, effects of season on the proportion of “symptom(s) reported” per individual child. Only runny nose showed a significant, but very small, age effect. However, the variability between the children was considerable. There were no obvious subgroups of children with specific symptom combinations. Conclusion: In any randomly chosen week, the vast majority of children (85%) in our—mainly—post-infancy cohort derived from the general population did not have any symptom, even in the younger age group, even in winter. The children showed considerable variability; no clear subgroups of symptom patterns could be identified, underlining the difficult position of healthcare providers. These results support our opinion that post-infancy children in the general population should not be evaluated as if they are infants when they have recurrent respiratory symptoms. If they clearly deviate from the above-described most common pattern, it is wise to keep an eye on potential, maybe even rare, serious underlying causes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number583630
JournalFrontiers in Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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