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Fevers could be an indicator of future infections for young infants

Researchers suggest higher fevers should be taken seriously by both parents and physicians

Photo (c) skynesher - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Penn State found that high fevers could be a sign of infection for young infants. The team says that parents should take necessary precautions to mitigate these risks. 

“Parents bring children of all ages to the emergency room with high fevers because they are concerned and it can be uncomfortable for the children,” said researcher Dr. Joshua Davis. “Fever height isn’t as concerning in older children, because their bodies are more equipped to fight off serious bacterial infections.” 

Monitoring temperature

The researchers analyzed results from over 4,800 infants by utilizing data from the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network, . 

For the purposes of the study, the researchers focused on three specific criteria for infants who had one recorded fever to see if any would have on effect on their likelihood of later developing an infection. These included the location of where the temperature was taken, what the temperature was, and how long the fever lasted. 

The researchers classified any temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit as a fever, with anything under that figure just considered a higher temperature and not cause for concern. 

The study revealed that of the three factors tested, only the reading on the thermometer was associated with an increased risk of bacterial infection. The findings showed that over 20 percent of infants with higher fevers later developed this type of infection. Conversely, just over nine percent of infants who had temperatures under the 100.4 degrees benchmark were diagnosed with bacterial infections. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings can play a role in how infants are treated in hospitals, as typically invasive, painful procedures are needed to test for bacterial infections. While Dr. Davis explained that a fever “isn’t enough to rule in or out of a serious bacterial infection,” it is certainly a viable avenue for physicians to explore before moving to more serious measures. 

“Young infants have underdeveloped immune systems and are susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Davis. “Those with serious bacterial infections can experience a rapid decline in their condition if they are not diagnosed within an appropriate amount of time.”  

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