The burden of recurrent respiratory infections is unclear. We identified young children with recurrent respiratory infections in order to characterize the clinical manifestations, risk factors and short-term consequences.
In this prospective cohort study, 1089 children were followed from birth to 2 years of age for respiratory infections by a daily symptom diary. Nasal swabs taken during respiratory infections were analyzed for viruses from 714 children. Nasopharyngeal swabs collected at 2 months of age were cultured for bacteria. The 10% of children with the highest number of annual respiratory illness days were defined to have recurrent respiratory tract infections.
The 90th percentile in the number of annual respiratory illness days was 98. Children above this limit (n = 109) had a median of 9.6 acute respiratory infections per year. Rhinovirus was detected in 58% of their infections. Of the children with recurrent infections, 60% were diagnosed with at least 3 episodes of acute otitis media, 73% received at least 3 antibiotic treatments and 21% were hospitalized for an acute respiratory infection. Tympanostomy was performed for 35% and adenoidectomy for 13% of the children. Asthma was diagnosed in 12% by 24 months of age. Older siblings increased the risk of recurrent respiratory infections. Early nasopharyngeal colonization with Streptococcus pneumoniae was common in children who later developed recurrent infections.
Children with recurrent respiratory infections frequently use health care services and antibiotics, undergo surgical procedures and are at risk for asthma in early life. Having older siblings increases the risk of recurrent infections.