Clinical investigations from the RACP

Investigating the child with a cough

Richard L Henry



Cough is a common feature of acute lower respiratory tract infections and most chronic respiratory diseases. Establishing an exact diagnosis for the child with a prolonged cough or with recurrent episodes of cough without wheeze is often difficult and management options are limited.

Key Points

  • Viral bronchitis is a common cause of cough.
  • Whooping cough should be considered in a child with prolonged cough.
  • Cough without wheeze is usually not asthma.
  • Chest x-ray is the first investigation to consider in the child with prolonged or recurrent cough.
  • CT scan of the chest is the investigation of choice for bronchiectasis.
  • A thorough history is of more value than most available investigations.