Introduction: Asthma is a common condition characterised by wheeze. Many different respiratory sounds are interpreted by parents as "wheeze" in young children. The primary aim of the present study was to relate different respiratory sounds reported as wheeze in two year olds to wheeze at age five years.
Methods: As part of a longitudinal cohort study, parents completed respiratory questionnaires for their children at two and five years of age. Parents who reported wheeze were given options to describe the sound as rattling, purring or whistling.
Results: Of the 1371 two year olds surveyed, 210 had current wheeze including 124 with rattle, 49 with purr and 24 with whistle. Children with whistle at two years were more likely to have mothers with asthma whilst children with rattling and purring were more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke. Wheeze status was ascertained at age five years in 162 (77%) children with wheeze at two years of age. Whistle persisted in 47% of affected children, rattle in 20% and purr in 13%, p=0.023. At five years of age, asthma medications were prescribed in 40% with whistle, 11% with rattle and 18% with purr at two years of age, p=0.017.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates different risk factors and outcomes for different respiratory sounds in two year olds where whistle, when compared with other respiratory sounds, is likely to persist and require asthma treatment in future.