The relationship was studied between preschool and current respiratory symptoms and cough receptor sensitivity in children. Forty six white children aged 7 years were investigated. They were divided into three groups: (i) healthy children; (ii) children with a history of idiopathic cough; and (iii) children with a history of wheezing. Cough receptor sensitivity was assessed by the inhalation of serially increasing concentrations of nebulised citric acid. The concentration which first induced a cough was the cough threshold and was taken as a measure of cough receptor sensitivity. The cough threshold was unrelated to respiratory symptoms, bronchial responsiveness, parental smoking, and atopic status. A wide variation in cough threshold was seen. Although these results suggest that idiopathic cough is unrelated to cough receptor sensitivity as assessed by the citric acid cough threshold, it is unclear whether threshold measurements are an accurate reflection of receptor sensitivity.
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