Original Contributions| Volume 57, ISSUE 3, P306-313, September 2019

Fever Characteristics and Risk of Serious Bacterial Infection in Febrile Infants

  • Joshua Davis
    Reprint Address: Joshua Davis, md, Department of Emergency Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, 500 University Drive, Hershey, PA 17033
    Department of Emergency Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
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  • Erik Lehman
    Department of Emergency Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
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      Fever is a common complaint in the pediatric emergency department (ED), but the vast majority of children evaluated with fever do not have a serious bacterial infection (SBI). However, in the neonate, a missed SBI can have devastating consequences.


      To determine the association between various fever characteristics and the risk of SBI in febrile infants.


      This is a secondary analysis of the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network study on febrile infants. Infants with a fever were prospectively enrolled at 26 enrolling EDs between 2008 and 2013. We analyzed association of height of fever, location of where temperature was taken (enrolling ED vs. non-health care location), and duration of fever with SBI.


      We included 4821 patients who had at least a blood culture completed. Height of fever was significantly associated with risk of SBI, with an odds ratio of 1.5 (95% confidence interval 1.2–1.8). Duration of fever was not associated with risk of SBI, and a fever taken in the enrolling ED vs. at a non-health care facility was minimally associated with risk of SBI (odds ratio 1.3, 95% confidence interval 1.0–1.5).


      In all analyses, height of fever was associated with all three major types of SBI in febrile infants. Duration and location of fever were less reliably associated with risk of SBI, but there was a small association of risk of SBI and a fever taken at the enrolling ED vs. at a non-health care location.


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