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Sex differences in febrile children with respiratory symptoms attending European emergency departments: An observational multicenter study

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 3;17(8):e0271934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271934. eCollection 2022.


OBJECTIVE: To assess sex differences in presentation and management of febrile children with respiratory symptoms attending European Emergency Departments.

DESIGN AND SETTING: An observational study in twelve Emergency Departments in eight European countries.

PATIENTS: Previously healthy children aged 0-<18 years with fever (≥ 38°C) at the Emergency Department or in the consecutive three days before Emergency Department visit and respiratory symptoms were included.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcomes were patient characteristics and management defined as diagnostic tests, treatment and admission. Descriptive statistics were used for patient characteristics and management stratified by sex. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed for the association between sex and management with adjustment for age, disease severity and Emergency Department. Additionally, subgroup analyses were performed in children with upper and lower respiratory tract infections and in children below five years.

RESULTS: We included 19,781 febrile children with respiratory symptoms. The majority were boys (54%), aged 1-5 years (58%) and triaged as low urgent (67%). Girls presented less frequently with tachypnea (15% vs 16%, p = 0.002) and increased work of breathing (8% vs 12%, p<0.001) compared with boys. Girls received less inhalation medication than boys (aOR 0.82, 95% CI 0.74-0.90), but received antibiotic treatment more frequently than boys (aOR 1.09, 95% CI 1.02-1.15), which is associated with a higher prevalence of urinary tract infections. Amongst children with a lower respiratory tract infection and children below five years girls received less inhalation medication than boys (aOR 0.77, 95% CI 0.66-0.89; aOR 0.80, 95% CI 0.72-0.90).

CONCLUSIONS: Sex differences concerning presentation and management are present in previously healthy febrile children with respiratory symptoms presenting to the Emergency Department. Future research should focus on whether these differences are related to clinicians’ attitudes, differences in clinical symptoms at the time of presentation and disease severity.

PMID:35921337 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0271934

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