DOI: 10.1002/emp2.13135 ISSN: 2688-1152

Risk of serious bacterial infections in pediatric patients with hyperpyrexia

Sofia Rachad, Dane Nickel, Fiona Berry, Meghan Goddard, Ayesha Khan, Natalie Muratori, Saul Hymes, Ashar Ata, Christopher Woll
  • Emergency Medicine



Hyperpyrexia has been associated with a greater prevalence of bacterial infections in the pediatric population, which prior to routine childhood vaccinations, has led to invasive testing and empiric antibiotic use for urinary tract infections, bacterial pneumonia, bacteremia, and bacterial meningitis. Since the implementation of routine childhood vaccinations, the prevalence of serious bacterial infections (SBIs) has declined. This study aims to determine if there is an association between hyperpyrexia and serious bacterial infections in well‐appearing febrile pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department (ED).


This is a cross‐sectional study conducted between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, at a single urban tertiary care pediatric ED. Patients were included if they were between 61 days and ≤18 years old presenting with a chief complaint of fever. Patients were excluded if they received antibiotics within 3 days of presentation, underwent surgical procedures within 2 weeks of presentation, had an ED visit for febrile illness within 2 weeks of study visit, were transferred from another institution, or were ill appearing. Prevalence of SBI was described and compared by presence of hyperpyrexia, age group, chronic medical condition, gender, and vaccination status. Logistic regression was used to analyze the association between SBIs and hyperpyrexia.


Of the 3862 charts reviewed, 2565 patients were included. The prevalence of SBI was 5.6%. A total of 413 patients presented with hyperpyrexia. Of the patients with hyperpyrexia, 31 (7.5%) had a serious bacterial infection. Hyperpyrexia was not significantly associated with SBIs in our logistic regression models (adjusted Odds Ratio 1.40, 95% confidence interval 0.92–2.12).


Serious bacterial infections were uncommon in our population. There is no statistically significant association between hyperpyrexia and SBIs in well‐appearing pediatric patients presenting to the ED with fever. The lack of a statistically significant association between hyperpyrexia and SBIs argues that clinicians should be cautious using hyperpyrexia as an independent risk factor for SBIs. More research is needed to identify independent and grouped SBI risk factors in well‐appearing pediatric patients presenting to the ED.

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