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Review: some preschool children develop complications after presenting to primary care with acute cough

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QUESTION: In children 0–4 years of age presenting to primary care with the symptom of acute cough or an undifferentiated acute respiratory tract infection with cough (UARTIC), what is the natural history of illness duration and complications?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Medline (1966 to September 1998), EMBASE/Excerpta Medica (1988 to September 1998), the Cochrane Library databases, Bandolier, and the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin using the content terms respiratory tract infection (RTI), cough, bronchitis, and chest infection; and by reviewing references of relevant articles.

Study selection

Studies published in English were selected if they were cohort studies, control or placebo arms of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews of RCTs, and if patients were preschool children 0–4 years of age presenting to primary care with acute cough. For study selection, the review used the symptom of cough or UARTIC defined as a cough that failed to differentiate into …

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  • For correspondence: Dr A D Hay, Division of Primary Health Care, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. alastair.hay{at}

  • Source of funding: no external funding.

  • A modified version of this abstract and commentary appears in Evidence-Based Medicine.