Respiratory disorders in children are extremely common. The incidence generally decline with age, such that in middle teenage years, they are rare. Children <5 will have on average 6-8 RTI’s per year – recurrent RTI in a young child is not indicative of underlying disease.
The risk of life-threatening infection and hospital admission is greatest in younger children.
Respiratory disorders account for:
- 30-50% of acute illness consultations in General Practice (depending on child’s age)
- 20-30% of all acute hospital admissions in children
Also note that:
- Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood
The majority of RTI’s are self-limiting. 80-90% are viral; RSV (respiratory syncytical virus), rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, parainfluenza and influenza. However, the type of virus does not necessarily correspond to the clinical presentation –as one type of virus can cause several types of presentation.
The most common bacterial pathogen is Streptococcus pneumonia, and other bacterial infections are also often streptococcus. Other bacterial infections include haemophilus influenzae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough).
Aetiology for Respiratory tract infections
- Male predominance
- Low socio-economic status
- High number of siblings
- Parental (especially maternal) smoking
- Born premature
- Underlying respiratory disease (e.g. CF, congential abnormalities)
- Immunodeficiency (rare) – e.g. HIV, or congenital; hypogammaglobuminaemia