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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1993 Aug;148(2):441-6.

Comparability of parent reports of respiratory illnesses with clinical diagnoses in infants.

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Department of Medicine, University of New Mexico Medical Center, Albuquerque.


In a cohort study of respiratory illnesses from birth through age 18 months, the investigators assessed the occurrence of illness by telephone reports of respiratory symptoms. To assess the comparability of illness events based on symptom reports with usual clinical modalities, a nurse practitioner examined children during illnesses, and office and clinic records of outpatient visits were reviewed. Respiratory illnesses were defined as symptom episodes of at least 2 days; lower respiratory illnesses included at least 1 day of either wet cough or wheeze. This report is based on 10,771 illnesses in the 1,315 subjects enrolled. Runny or stuffy nose was reported for most (93%) illnesses, wet cough in 33%, and wheeze in 6%. In comparison with the diagnoses made by a nurse practitioner, parent report of wet cough or wheeze was sensitive (93.4%) for detecting lower respiratory illnesses, but nonspecific with specificity of only 24.2%. The majority of the false-positive lower respiratory illnesses had the symptom of wet cough. The comparison of parent reports with outpatient records provided similar findings. Standardized reporting of respiratory illnesses can be achieved with a telephone surveillance system but classification of specific illnesses from the surveillance information may differ from diagnoses made by clinicians.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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