FOAM4GP Map – Paediatric Fever Phobia

Clinical Case – Paediatric fever from an Australian General Practice perspective: Fever

Thursday afternoon – second last patient of the day. The parents bring in a tired looking 5yo M missing two front teeth and carrying a rather moth eaten teddy bear (not prognostic). The parents look worn out and significantly anxious. You shake hands and sit down glancing intermittently at the child who lies his head across his mothers lap who catches glances at you with a look that says “where are you hiding the needles…”

He’s been unwell for 72 hrs with temperatures up to 39 degrees. Been grizzly and upset and not really sleeping. No real localising signs (Resp/GI/GU), just high temperatures. Other friends at school have had recent viral illnesses. Obstetric/Developmental history normal, vaccinations UTD, no signif PMHx, no meds/allergies. No FHx of note. No one else in the house is currently sick. He has had decreased oral intake and seems to go to the bathroom less.

You examine him – OE: Appears mildly pale and lethargic. Moist mucous membranes, warm peripheries (does this help?), HR 110 regular (what is normal?), RR 26 (no increased WOB),  cap return <2 secs, skin examination normal, no photophobia/neck stiffness, no rashes, ENT exam reveals minimally red bilateral TMs and pharynx (though febrile?), tongue appeared normal, maybe some LNs up submandibularly, chest clear, HSx2+0 (do I need this?), abdomen soft non tender no rebound/guarding, no HSM, testicles normal, lower limbs normal no P.oedema.

The parents head off to the bathroom with the child to get a urine specimen while you ponder what to do next. Essentially, you have two choices – send to ED or send home. Which do you choose and why?

Question 1 – What are the features in a febrile child which make me comfortable to send a child home?EmPEM

Lets start with a great entertaining 6 minute video from on paediatric emergencies in children – Link

RCHWhat is a fever in a child and how should we measure it? RCH guidelines suggest >38.0 and how it is taken is discussed here – Link

WhDon't forget the bubblesat are the normal vital values for paediatrics? I can never remember and keep my trusty RCH guidelines book on my desk. On the internet however, check out (fabulous website for all paediatric FOAM – check it out if you haven’t already!) – Link

I couldn’t find much research specifically in Australian General Practice on ED vs Home. Here is a massive study (20,000) looking at paediatric fever in PAEDIATRIC primary care and outcomes in Canada (Paediatrics 2000) – Link

Journal of PaediatricsMisconceptions by medical practitioners about paediatric fever remain common and can adversely impact our disposition plannning.

Some of these are highlighted in an Italian Journal of Paediatrics study – Link – Some erroneous beliefs included: how-to-reduce-a-fever-185% prescribed antipyretics to prevent febrile seizures, 90% said that febrile convulsions can cause brain damage, 65% stated that fever is harmful to a child, 76% used the height of the fever to differentiate bacterial vs viral causes, and finally 10% still thought aspirin can be used to bring  down fever (read: Reye’s Syndrome).

I would like to hope our doctor’s perceptions are different to Italians. But I have no evidence to back this up.

NSW HealthSo, I turn to guidelines to decide what clinical symptoms/signs to base my decision upon.

NSW health has a great 2010 guideline for children with fever under 5yo with a good flow chart – Link – as does SA health – Link

So I now understand how to assess ‘toxicity’ based on the ABCD guidelines which will help my decision planning.

Life the fast lane

Life in the Fastlane has a great summary of the latest (2013) NICE guidelines for paediatric fever – Link – and here ARE the NICE guidelines for a detailed read on Green/Amber/Red features for decision making (page 16) – Link

Ok so I have some clinical guidelines on green/amber/red flags. What can give me a guide to where the infection may be?

Question 2 – What infections do I not want to miss and how do I pick them? I was taught the B’s Bacteria

A great chart and discussion of serious causes of fever is again in the NICE guidelines 2013 page 17 – Link

(Bladder) UTI – Here is a great podcast from EmPEM on paediatric UTI 2012 – Link PS. NEVER send a bag specimen for MCS to diagnose UTI – Link – Here is a patient information handout for advice on how to catch a clean specimen – Link

(Brain) Meningitis – Here is the one we fear. Here is a great podcast from EmPEM 2012 again – Link – Here is an AFP article from 2010 – Link

(Bronchus (including ear!)) Pneumonia/URTI/OM – Here is a Q&A quick review of paediatric pneumonia from Life in the Fastlane – Link. Another good resource is the management chart on the RCH website – Link – There is a great summary article on Otitis media on – Link

(Bone) Septic arthritis/Osteomyelitis – American Family Physician 2011 discusses this topic well – Link

(Blood) Septicaemia/Infective Endocarditis – For an update in paediatric sepsis there is a great online lecture here (American though) – Link

(Boil) Skin infection/Cellulitis – The RCH has great pictures and tables about common bacterial skin infections – Link

Question 3 – What are those other less common horrible things that cause persistent fever without a source?Kawasaki

Kawasaki’s disease –  A commonly feared vasculitis in kids with possible complicating coronary aneurysms. PEDemmorsals discusses this well – Link – Another source is AFP 2013 – Kawasaki disease – Link

Leukaemia/Lymphoma – This is discussed in this article in the free online textbook (under differential diagnosis) – Link Unfortunately I didn’t find a good FOAM on leukaemia in paediatrics yet? Can anyone help me out?

Cat Scratch Disease – Great catvetdescription from American Family Physician 2011 – Link

And unfortunately

Factitious fever – Here is an interesting read and some good anecdotes on factitious fever and Munchhausen – Link

I know there are a bucket load more possibilities but beyond the scope of discussion here.

Question 4 – If I want to do some basic investigations if I am uncertain, what should I order?

AAFP has a good discussion article on levels of testing in fever of unknown origin in paediatrics and when to initiate it – Link

RCPA 2011 has a good list of possible investigations you could consider based upon your suspected list of culprits – Link – Standards – (FBC, Film, CRP, Bilirubin, LFTs, LD + BCultures, urine MCS, faeces MCS)

Question 5 – Can I do anything about the risk of febrile seizures?

SeizureNot if they are simple febrile seizures without complicating factors. You should however work out why they are febrile!

Antipyretics DO NOT help prevent febrile seizures – JAMA 2009 – Link

Diazepam has been shown to help prevent seizures in a febrile illness or continous use of phenobarbital or valproic acid have been shown to stop these – benign and self limiting seizures. I wouldn’t be putting my paediatric patients on these medications for this indication and this is supported here (Paediatrics guidelines for management of simple febrile seizures (American)) – Link

Further detail on simple/complicated febrile seizures are beyond the scope of this discussion today.

Question 6 – What else can I tell parents about fever?

A good article by American Academy of Paediatrics (2011) talks about advice for parents about fever and common questions – Link

Question 7 – So what did I do?

Well the urine came back clear. (and subsequent MCS).

So looking at the above guidelines – the child did not look toxic, was well hydrated and tolerating ongoing fluids, was fully immunised, had responsible parents, lived nearby (and thus within 30 minutes of a hospital), and they were happy to bring the child back tomorrow.

I did what any doctor does in these cases – I phoned a friend! (I mean I went down the hall and chatted it through with another doctor to see if he had any other thoughts – “A problem shared….”).

They agreed that we could review the child again tomorrow based upon current symptoms/signs.

I handed the parents a good handout from the RCH – Link – described some red flags to watch for and then told them to return tomorrow.

Happy childADDIT: The end of this story was the child was still having fevers at day 5 so I ended up doing some basic bloods which showed a mild lymphopenia, otherwise normal FBC/Film, CRP 60, ELFTs all normal. BCultures still pending. Child continued to remain well and fever settled a day or so later. Subsequently we have had several children with similar fevers and non-specific symptoms when I discussed it with other doctors in the clinic. Something in the water/kindergarten?


10 thoughts on “FOAM4GP Map – Paediatric Fever Phobia

    • Please do. Share as widely as you like that’s the idea of FOAM! The more you tell the better.

      Hope they learn something!
      Cheers, Rob.

  1. Doc Rob,
    What an absolute gold mine! Thank you!
    An an Aussie-trained junior doc applying for GP training soon, this is an invaluable resource for a common presentation which, as you eloquently illustrate, can be slightly more troublesome than just a straight forward cough or cold.
    You’ve definitely inspired me to join the FOAM4GP club and hopefully I can make some contributions in the future. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Alex,

      Would be great to get you on board! The more the merrier! Free Online Access Medical education is significantly lacking for Australian General Practice so the more we can get out there the better!

      GP is about to go through a bit of a golden age I think so now is the time to get on board!

      Cheers, Rob.

  2. Indeed, whilst there are lots of GP bloggers, there is comparatively little quality FOAMed vs reflective prose.

    FOAMed has LOTS to offer the time-pressed doctor, whether established or in training, in both primary care and in specialties.

    But we need more science and less faff. Thanks to DFTB for this post on fever.

    I’d also recommend the recent summary of top 20 research studies for primary care – read more at

    For rural proceduralists, read for case discussions and check out for collated FOAMed in GP-anaes, obs, EM

    …but we need more critical appraisal of clinical issues for primary care in GP. A good area for any budding registrars…

    • Hi Tim, thanks for the comments!

      FOAMed is brilliant and hopefully more and more people will discover it. There certainly is a paucity of good quality FOAM4GP out there and we are hoping to rectify this!

      Slight point though. This post is not by DFTB (Don’t Forget The Bubbles) but by me – a budding (or almost fully fledged) GP Registrar who has attempted to collate FOAM on specific topics for critical appraisal of important clinical issues! (See – To Statin or not to Statin, and Cardiac Stress Testing for other Maps).

      I will put up a Map soon of all the good FOAM websites available for information. Hopefully we can all help promote each others sites and form a partnership of Australian FOAM websites!

      Cheers Tim,
      Dr Robin Park – GPT4 Registrar Torquay.

  3. Whoops, sorry about that! This is EXACTLY the sort of thing w need to be doing – so all credit to you with your Foam4GP maps – useful summaries of literature for common primary care issues. Brilliant…more more more please

    Had a few emails from people who are intrigued with FOAMed as GPs, but a bit turned off by reflective pieces . Myself, I like both – good to reflect on how we practice and issues such as GP vs specialist (@nomadicGP), women in medicine, billing dilemmas and even the PCEHR….but has been criticism from some old crusty GPs who cant see what all the fuss is about with afOAMed and are looking for resources on how to improve their practice…

    The Paed Fever Phobia post does just that. So much more useful than the usual research on learning styles and registrar training pathways that seems to predominate in many GP academic circles.

    Again, lets see more of this sort of quality FOAMed summary.

    I’ll bung one up on dental pain sometime. Any other useful topics?

  4. Pingback: FOAMed & Primary Care Research - KI Doc

  5. Pingback: Nervous System Infection – rathemblog

Leave a Reply to Doc Rob Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s