Respiratory Tract Infections in Children in the Community: Prospective Online Inception Cohort Study

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PURPOSE: Describe the duration of symptoms, proportion of parents seeking primary care consultations, and costs for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) of children in the community.

METHODS: Community-based, online, prospective inception cohort study. General practitioners from socioeconomically diverse practices posted study invitations to parents of 10,310 children aged ≥3 months and <15 years.

RESULTS: One parent of 485 (4.7%) children in 331 families consented, completed baseline data and symptom diaries, and agreed to medical record review. Compared with nonresponders, responding parent's children were younger (aged 4 vs 6 years) and less socioeconomically deprived. Between February and July 2016, 206 parents reported 346 new RTIs in 259 children. Among the 197 first RTIs reported per family, it took 23 days for 90% (95% CI, 85%-94%) of children to recover. Median symptom duration was longer: in children with primary care consultations (9 days) vs those without consultations (6 days, P = 0.06); children aged <3 years (11 days) vs >3 years (7 days, P <.01); and among children with reported lower RTI symptoms (12 days) vs those with only upper RTI symptoms (8 days, P <.001). Sixteen (8.1%; 95% CI, 4.7%-12.8%) of 197 children had primary care consultations at least once (total 19 consultations), and a similar proportion had time off school or nursery. Sixty of 188 (32%; 95% CI, 25%-39%) parents reported paying for medications for their child's illness.

CONCLUSIONS: Parents can be advised that RTI symptoms last up to 3 weeks. Policy makers should be aware that parents may seek primary care support in at least 1 in 12 illnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • antibacterial agents
  • child
  • primary health care
  • respiratory tract infections


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