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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Duration of fever and serious bacterial infections in children: a systematic review

Gijs Elshout1*, Miriam Monteny1, Johannes C van der Wouden1, Bart W Koes1 and Marjolein Y Berger2

Author Affiliations

1 Erasmus MC, Department of General Practice, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Department of General Practice, PO Box 196, 9700 AD Groningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2011, 12:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-33

Published: 16 May 2011



Parents of febrile children frequently contact primary care. Longer duration of fever has been related to increased risk for serious bacterial infections (SBI). However, the evidence for this association remains controversial. We assessed the predictive value of duration of fever for SBI.


Studies from MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane databases (from January 1991 to December 2009) were retrieved. We included studies describing children aged 2 months to 6 years in countries with high Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccination coverage. Duration of fever had to be studied as a predictor for serious bacterial infections.


Seven studies assessed the association between duration of fever and serious bacterial infections; three of these found a relationship.


The predictive value of duration of fever for identifying serious bacterial infections in children remains inconclusive. None of these seven studies was performed in primary care. Studies evaluating the duration of fever and its predictive value in children in primary care are required.