Children with first-time simple febrile seizures are at low risk of serious bacterial illness

Jennifer L. Trainor*, Louis C. Hampers, Steven E. Krug, Robert Listernick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the rates of serious bacterial illness (SBI) in children presenting to emergency departments (EDs) with first-time uncomplicated febrile seizures. Methods: The ED visits from seven Chicago metropolitan area hospitals (two tertiary pediatric EDs, five community general EDs) for all pediatric patients seen between July 1995 and December 1997 with a discharge diagnosis including the term "seizure" were retrospectively identified. Records of patients who met criteria for simple, first-time febrile seizure were reviewed (age 6-60 months; temperature ≥38.0°C; single, generalized, tonic-clonic seizure <20 minutes; absence of known central nervous system disease). Rates of bacteremia, urinary tract infection, bacterial meningitis, and pneumonia were determined. Results: Four hundred fifty-five children were identified who had first-time simple febrile seizures. The study participants had a mean age of 21 months and a mean temperature of 39.6°C, and 64% were male. Seventy-three percent were seen in a community hospital setting. Blood cultures were obtained for 315 children (69%). Four children (1.3% [95% CI = 0.1% to 2.5%]) were bacteremic, all with Streptococcus pneumoniae; the rate of bacteremia did not differ in the subset at highest risk for bacteremia (6-36 months, temperature >39°C). No demographic or laboratory data distinguished the bacteremic children from those with negative blood cultures. One hundred seventy-one children (38%) had urine cultures obtained; 5.9% [95% CI = 2.4% to 9.4%] of the cultures grew >100,000 colony-forming units/mL of a single pathogenic organism. One hundred thirty-five children (30%) had cerebrospinal fluid cultures performed. None of these cultures grew a bacterial pathogen [95% CI = 0% to 2.2%]. Two hundred eight children (45.7%) had chest x-rays performed; 12.5% [95% CI = 10.2% to 14.8%] (n = 26) of the x-rays were read as consistent with pneumonia by the radiologist at the treating institution. None of the blood cultures performed on children with abnormal radiographs were positive (cultures drawn on 23 of 26 patients, 88%). Stool cultures were performed on 14 children (3.1%); two cultures (14.3% [95% CI = 0% to 32.6%]) grew a bacterial pathogen, both Shigella. Conclusions: Rates of SBI in this multi-institution population of children with first-time simple febrile seizures were low and are consistent with those published in the literature for febrile children without seizures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-787
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Bacteremia
  • Febrile seizure
  • Meningitis
  • Urinary tract infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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