The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines to help doctors decide whether an infant should be hospitalized and undergo invasive testing

By Stephanie Emma Pfeffer
July 19, 2021 02:17 PM
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It can be scary when a newborn baby has a fever — it may indicate bacterial infection — but now there are standardized guidelines that pediatricians can follow to determine the best course of action.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines published in Pediatrics to eliminate confusion surrounding the care of infants with fevers ages 8 to 60 days.

Previously, there was no set protocol — one doctor might suggest a few hours of observation in an emergency room, for example, while another might admit the same baby to a hospital for a full evaluation to determine the presence of bacteria.

The days-long hospital stay might include invasive testing such as a lumbar puncture, which is costly, uncomfortable for the child and family, and may turn out to be ultimately unnecessary.

Now, due to the new standardized guidelines, doctors can follow three age-based algorithms to decide whether well-appearing infants with fever — defined as a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher — should be admitted to the hospital or not. The guidelines offer a very specific set of procedures and tests based on whether the child's age is 8-21 days, 22-28 days or 29-60 days.

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"Most of these infants never get a fever, but when one does it can be pretty scary," Dr. Sean O'Leary, a coauthor of the guidelines, vice chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus told Today. "What is good about these guidelines from the perspective of a parent is they are based on all the science accumulated over the decades on how to manage an infant with a fever."

For parents: If your infant has a fever, the first step is to call your pediatrician. The new guidelines will allow them to look for signs of serious illness while potentially avoiding an unnecessary workup and hospital stay.