United States’ Emergency Department Visits for Fever by Young Children 2007-2017

Sriram Ramgopal*, Paul L. Aronson, Jennifer R. Marin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Our goal in this study was to estimate rates of emergency department (ED) visits for fever by children <2 years of age, and evaluate frequencies of testing and treatment during these visits. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of ED encounters from 2007-2017 using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a cross-sectional, multi-stage probability sample survey of visits to nonfederal United States EDs. We included encounters with a visit reason of “fever” or recorded fever in the ED. We report demographics and management strategies in two groups: infants ≤90 days in age; and children 91 days to <2 years old. For patients 91 days to <2 years, we compared testing and treatment strategies between general and pediatric EDs using chi-squared tests. Results: Of 1.5 billion encounters over 11 years, 2.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.9-2.2%) were by children <2 years old with fever. Two million encounters (95% CI, 1.7-2.4 million) were by infants ≤90 days, and 28.4 million (95% CI, 25.5-31.4 million) were by children 91 days to <2 years. Among infants ≤90 days, 27.6% (95% CI, 21.1-34.1%) had blood and 21.3% (95% CI, 13.6-29.1%) had urine cultures; 26.8% (95% CI, 20.9-32.7%) were given antibiotics, and 21.1% (95% CI, 15.3-26.9%) were admitted or transferred. Among patients 91 days to <2 years in age, 6.8% (95% CI, 5.8-7.8%) had blood and 7.7% (95% CI 6.1-9.4%) had urine cultures; 40.5% (95% CI, 40.5-40.5%) were given antibiotics, and 4.4% (95% CI, 3.5-5.3%) were admitted or transferred. Patients 91 days to <2 years who were evaluated in general EDs had higher rates of radiography (27.1% vs 15.2%; P<0.01) and antibiotic utilization (42.3% vs 34.2%; P<0.01), but lower rates of urine culture testing (6.4% vs 11.6%, p = 0.03), compared with patients evaluated in pediatric EDs. Conclusion: Approximately 180,000 patients ≤90 days old and 2.6 million patients 91 days to <2 years in age with fever present to US EDs annually. Given existing guidelines, blood and urine culture performance was low for infants ≤90 days old. For children 91 days to <2 years, rates of radiography and antibiotic use were higher in general EDs compared to pediatric EDs. These findings suggest opportunities to improve care among febrile young children in the ED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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