ACUTE RESPIRATORY DISEASES IN BRAZILIAN CHILDREN: ARE CAREGIVERS ABLE TO DETECT EARLY WARNING SIGNS?

<p></p><p>ABSTRACT Objective: To assess the level of caregiver knowledge about respiratory signs and symptoms of acute respiratory infection (ARI) as well as their ability to detect the early warning signs and need for medical assistance in children referred to an emergency service. Methods: This is a prospective, cross-sectional study. A standardized questionnaire with questions on the perception of the severity of ARI signs and symptoms was applied to caregivers of pediatric patients assisted in the emergency room of a university hospital from August 2011 to May 2012. Chi-square and Student’s t-tests were used to determine which variables contributed with caregivers’ recognition of severity of acute respiratory diseases. Results: 499 caregivers were interviewed. The most cited causes of ARI were flu syndrome (78.6%), common cold (73.9%), pharyngitis (64.1%), and pneumonia (54.5%). Fever (34.1%) and cough (15.8%) were major reasons for referral to hospital. The most cited signs of severity recognized by caregivers were fever (99.6%), dyspnea (91.4%), wheezing (86.4%), adynamia (80.2%), coughing (79.8%), and tachypnea (78.6%). Children’s history of respiratory diseases (p=0.002), caregiver’s age (p=0.010) and marital status (p=0.014) were significantly associated with tachypnea, the most severe ARI symptom. Conclusions: Although caregivers of children can recognize ARI most important signs and symptoms, they are unable to judge severity, which may delay medical care and early treatment.</p><p></p>