UMEM Educational Pearls


Childhood vaccination has significantly decreased the incidence of bacterial meningitis and bacteremia in infants and young children, specifically vaccines against H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae, shifting broad workups for these disease and empiric antibiosis to younger age groups as rates declined. In recent years the percentage of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children has been rising due to multiple factors; now over 1% of children in the US under 2 years of age are unvaccinated. The question becomes, should these children be treated more similarly to young infants as they lack to immunity to these organisms?

Literature on this topic is sparse, although, Finkel, Ospina-Jimenez, et al. reviewed the literature available and proposed an algorithm for well appearing children 3-24 months of age without a clear source and a temperature of >39C (102.2F). Recommendations included UA (to determine possible source) in the following patients: fever > 2 days, prior UTI, female or uncircumcised male <12 months, or male <6 months. They also recommended evaluation with viral panel. If no source was determined, they then recommended CBC and procalcitonin with a CXR for WBC > 20,000/mm3. For WBC >15,000/mm3, ANC >10,000/mm3, absolute band count >1,500/mm3, or procalcitonin >0.5ng/mL they recommended blood culture, ceftriaxone 50 mg/kg, and follow up within 24 hours.

Bottom line: Literature is scarce and practice patterns are likely to evolve as ramifications of decrease in vaccination rates become clearer. The above algorithm is proposed, however covers limited situations and may not be practical in all settings. Clinical judgement should be used in the evaluation and management of these patients. A more conservative approach compared to vaccinated infants is reasonable at this time.



Finkel L, Ospina-Jimenez C, Byers M, Eilbert W. Fever Without Source in Unvaccinated Children Aged 3 to 24 Months: What Workup Is Recommended?. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021;37(12):e882-e885