The frequency distribution of presenting symptoms in children aged six months to six years to primary care

Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2011 Apr;12(2):123-34. doi: 10.1017/S146342361000040X.


Background: Primary care providers and researchers wishing to estimate study recruitment rates need estimates of illness frequency in primary care. Previous studies of children's symptoms have found that presentations are most common for the symptoms: cough, fever, earache, rash, diarrhoea and vomiting. Since 2000, primary care provision in the United Kingdom has changed with the introduction of Walk-in-Centres (WICs) and new Out of Hours (OoHs) providers.

Aims: To describe the type and frequency of parent-reported presenting symptoms at a range of primary care sites between 2005 and 2007.

Methods: Parent-reported presenting symptoms, recorded in their own words, were extracted from data collected from all children aged six months to six years during recruitment to a randomised controlled trial. Presenting symptoms were coded and presented as frequency per 100 'consulting sessions' by type of primary care site.

Findings: Results were evaluated from 2491 episodes of illness at 35 sites. When grouped by primary care site, respiratory symptoms were the most common at OoHs centres, the WIC and general practitioner (GP) surgeries. Trauma symptoms were common in the Emergency Department, but unexpectedly, diarrhoea and vomiting were more common in the Emergency Department and skin presenting symptoms more common at the WIC than at GP sites.

Conclusions: We report the relative frequency of acute symptoms by type of primary care provider. These data may be useful to those planning recruitment to primary care paediatric studies and policy makers for planning primary care service provision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Prevalence*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vomiting / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology