Characteristics and management of adolescents attending the ED with fever: a prospective multicentre study

BMJ Open. 2022 Jan 19;12(1):e053451. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-053451.


Objective: Most studies on febrile children have focused on infants and young children with serious bacterial infection (SBI). Although population studies have described an increased risk of sepsis in adolescents, little is known about febrile adolescents attending the emergency department (ED). We aimed to describe patient characteristics and management of febrile adolescents attending the ED.

Design and setting: The MOFICHE/PERFORM study (Management and Outcome of Febrile Children in Europe/Personalised Risk assessment in Febrile illness to Optimise Real-life Management across the European Union), a prospective multicentre study, took place at 12 European EDs. Descriptive and multivariable regression analyses were performed, comparing febrile adolescents (12-18 years) with younger children in terms of patient characteristics, markers of disease severity (vital signs, clinical alarming signs), management (diagnostic tests, therapy, admission) and diagnosis (focus, viral/bacterial infection).

Results: 37 420 encounters were included, of which 2577 (6.9%) were adolescents. Adolescents were more often triaged as highly urgent (38.9% vs 34.5%) and described as ill appearing (23.1% vs 15.6%) than younger children. Increased work of breathing and a non-blanching rash were present less often in adolescents, while neurological signs were present more often (1% vs 0%). C reactive protein tests were performed more frequently in adolescents and were more often abnormal (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.7, 95% CI 1.5 to 1.9). Adolescents were more often diagnosed with SBI (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.6 to 2.0) and sepsis/meningitis (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 5.0) and were more frequently admitted (aOR 1.3, 95% CI 1.2 to 1.4) and treated with intravenous antibiotics (aOR 1.7, 95% CI 1.5 to 2.0).

Conclusions: Although younger children presented to the ED more frequently, adolescents were more often diagnosed with SBI and sepsis/meningitis. Our data emphasise the importance of awareness of severe infections in adolescents.

Keywords: paediatric A&E and ambulatory care; paediatric infectious disease & immunisation; paediatrics.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bacterial Infections* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Fever* / diagnosis
  • Fever* / etiology
  • Fever* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vital Signs