Researchers have identified a series of “red flag” symptoms that will help clinicians to diagnose children with serious infections such as meningitis.
Rashes, quick breathing and poor blood circulation can all point to a child suffering from more than a minor cold, said the researchers writing in the The Lancet. They also warned clinicians to look out for children with a temperature over 40 oC.
The authors said that becasue serious infections such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis were now rare in developed countries, they were becoming more difficult to diagnose in children as clinicians were less likely to encounter them and therefore recognise the symptoms.
Study co-author Dr Matthew Thompson, from Oxford University, said: “It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Serious infections are rare and getting increasingly rarer thanks to vaccinations. Identifying that one child out of all those many with minor ailments is difficult. It is complicated further as the child may be seen at any early stage of infection before it is possible to recognise its severity.”
The researchers now want to develop guidelines for GPs so that children with infections are referred to hospitals quickly and only when necessary.
Dr Ann Van den Bruel, another member of the Oxford team, said: “Health professionals should routinely check for these warning signs in every sick child they see. For example, not all GPs will check a child’s temperature, whereas we would now suggest this is done on all occasions.”