Research suggests new tack in identifying childhood meningitis

Red flag symptoms including neck pain or stiffness and photophobia are more indicative of childhood meningitis than headache, pallor and cool peripheries.

These are key findings in new research published in the March issue of the British Journal of General Practice.

Researchers at Oxford looked at 1,212 children attending 15 GP surgeries in Oxfordshire and Somerset and found that four key symptoms in febrile children were highly predictive of meningococcal disease – confusion, photophobia, leg pain and neck pain/stiffness. Symptoms previously thought to be indicative – including headache, pallor and cool peripheries – were not found to predict the disease.

The authors of the paper conclude: "The findings of this study should be used as evidence to support (or modify) triage protocols used on the telephone, or face to face, by clinicians to guide assessment of children with acute infections."