Objectives: To describe the clinical and epidemiological profile of infants less than 2 months of age reporting to a district hospital and to assess the ability of simple clinical symptoms and signs used by health workers to detect severe illness warranting hospital admission.
Methods: It was an observational study done at a general district hospital at Chandigarh, North India. Infants less than 2 months of age presenting to this hospital were enrolled. All infants were first evaluated by an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) to record a pre-determined set of symptoms and signs. A pediatrician who was blinded to the findings of the ANM did an independent assessment for severe illness needing urgent hospitalization.
Results: A total of 1268 infants were enrolled. Of these, 356 (28%) were below 7 days of age. Overall, regurgitation, vomiting and stool problems (25%) were the most common presenting complaints in the first 2 months of life, followed by jaundice (22%) and respiratory symptoms (15%). 112 (8.8%) infants were classified as having "severe illness requiring urgent hospital management" by the pediatrician. Nearly half (46%) of the admissions were because of jaundice while 17% each were due to sepsis and pneumonia / lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI). A history of not feeding well (OR 14.7, 8.0 and 11.3 in 0-6, 7-27 and 28-59 days age groups, respectively) and a respiratory rate >60/min (OR 21.5, 6.2 and 10.5 in 0-6, 7-27 and 28-59 days age groups, respectively) had significant positive predictive value to predict severe illness (except jaundice) in all the 3 age groups studied. In the second month of life, severe chest in-drawing (OR 4.6) was also a significant predictor.
Conclusions: Simple clinical signs are useful in hands of health worker for identifying neonates with serious illness warranting hospital admission. These will be of use in the further development of clinical algorithms for the national integrated management of childhood illnesses.