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Pediatr Res. 2010 Sep;68(3):252-7. doi: 10.1203/00006450-201011001-00493.

Development of a symptom score for clinical studies to identify children with a documented viral upper respiratory tract infection.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The objective of this study was to develop a symptom scoring system for use in clinical studies that differentiates children with cold symptoms who have an identifiable viral etiology for their upper respiratory tract infection (URI) from those in whom no virus is detected. Nasal swabs for PCR testing for identification of respiratory viruses were obtained on children aged 2-11 y at baseline and when parents thought their child was developing a cold. Parental-recorded severity of specific symptoms in children with and without a documented viral URI were compared. Nasal swabs were obtained on 108 children whose parents reported their child was developing a cold. A viral etiology was identified in 62 of 108 (57.4%) samples. Symptom measures that best differentiated children with a viral etiology from those without were significant runny nose and significant cough on days 1-4 of the illness. A URI symptom score was developed based on these symptoms, with a sensitivity of 81.4%, specificity of 61.9%, and accuracy of 73.3%. Parental impression is only a moderately accurate predictor of viral URI in children. Our URI symptom score provided a more accurate method for identifying children with viral URIs for clinical studies.

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