Background Children with respiratory tract infections (RTIs) use more primary care appointments than any other group, but many parents are unsure if, and when, they should seek medical help and report that existing guidance is unclear.
Aim To develop symptom-based criteria to support parental medical help seeking for children with RTIs.
Design and setting A research and development/University of California Los Angeles (RAND/UCLA) appropriateness study to obtain consensus on children’s RTI symptoms appropriate for home, primary, or secondary health care in the UK.
Method A multidisciplinary panel of 12 healthcare professionals — six GPs, two pharmacists, two NHS 111 nurses, and two emergency paediatric consultants — rated the appropriateness of care setting for 1134 scenarios in children aged >12 months.
Results Panellists agreed that home care would be appropriate for children with ≤1 week of ‘normal’ infection symptoms (cough, sore throat, ear pain, and/or runny nose, with or without eating adequately and normal conscious level). The presence of ≥2 additional symptoms generally indicated the need for a same-day GP consultation, as did the presence of shortness of breath. Assessment in the emergency department was considered appropriate when ≥3 symptoms were present and included shortness of breath or wheezing.
Conclusion The authors have defined the RTI symptoms that parents might regard as ‘normal’ and therefore suitable for care at home. These results could help parents decide when to home care and when to seek medical help for children with RTIs.