January 25, 2019
2 min read

Respiratory tract infection symptoms may last 3 weeks in children

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Children with respiratory tract infection may have symptoms for up to 3 weeks, and one in 12 parents may seek help from primary care, according to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

“Self care is central to sustainable primary care,” Alastair D. Hay, FRCGP, of the Centre for Academic Primary Care, Bristol Medical School, at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues wrote. “Accurate knowledge regarding respiratory tract infection symptoms and their duration is an essential part of self care, and supports patients in knowing when they should seek help.”

To measure symptom duration, costs, and primary care help-seeking behavior, researchers conducted a community-based, online, prospective inception cohort study of 331 families from five practices. The children (n = 485) were aged between 3 months and 15 years.

Researchers found that, between February and July 2016, there were 346 new respiratory tract infections in 259 children reported by 206 parents.

When considering the first 197 respiratory tract infections reported, researchers noted it took 23 days for 90% (95% CI, 85-94) of children to recover.

They also found that median symptom duration was longer in children who had a primary care consultation than those who did not (9 days vs. 6 days; P = .006), in children who were aged younger than 3 years than those older than 3 years (11 days vs. 7 days; P < .001) and among children who reported lower respiratory tract infection symptoms than those who reported upper respiratory tract infection symptoms (12 days vs. 8 days; P < .001).

boy swallowing pill 
Children with respiratory tract infection may have symptoms for up to 3 weeks, and one in 12 parents may seek help from primary care.
Source: Adobe Stock

Researchers also found that 8.1% (95% CI, 4.7-12.8) of children had primary care consultations at least once, with a similar proportion taking time off from school.

In addition, 32% (95% CI, 25-39) of parents paid for medications for the illness.

“Knowledge of [respiratory tract infection] symptom duration in a non-consulting population could inform [general physician] practice/public health interventions by helping parents to know how long to expect respiratory symptoms to last,” the researchers wrote. “And, ideally, also providing information to parents about which symptoms are cause for seeking consultation. Similarly, such interventions could advise parents to expect longer and more severe illnesses if children have lower respiratory symptoms. Clinicians conducting telephone triage could also provide additional reassurance to parents reporting exclusively upper respiratory symptoms.” – by Melissa J. Webb

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.