Signs and Symptoms that Precede Wheezing in Children with a Pattern of Moderate-to-Severe Intermittent Wheezing

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To examine parent-reported signs and symptoms as antecedents of wheezing in preschool children with previous moderate to severe wheezing episodes, and to determine the predictive capacity of these symptom patterns for wheezing events.

Study design

Parents (n = 238) of children age 12 to 59 months with moderate-to-severe intermittent wheezing enrolled in a year-long clinical trial completed surveys that captured signs and symptoms at the start of a respiratory tract illness (RTI). Sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value, and positive predictive value (PPV) for each symptom leading to wheezing during that RTI were calculated.


The most commonly reported first symptom categories during the first RTI were “nose symptoms” (41%), “significant cough” (29%), and “insignificant cough” (13%). The most reliable predictor of subsequent wheezing was significant cough, which had a specificity of 78% and a PPV of 74% for predicting wheezing.


Significant cough is the most reliable antecedent of wheezing during an RTI. It may be useful to consider individualized symptom patterns as a component of management plans intended to minimize wheezing episodes.

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