Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Periorbital cellulitis in children

Eye infections in children are common.  The majority consist of simple infections of the conjunctiva (the layer that covers the sclera and the inside of the eyelid).  While these infections can be viral or bacterial, the tendency is for both to self-resolve and so infection confined to the conjunctiva can be managed conservatively.  The likelihood of benefit from topical antibiotics is low and there is a significant risk of the ingredients of antibiotic eye drops creating a chemical conjunctivitis and making things worse.  As a result, NICE suggests a limited number of scenarios in which topical antibiotics may be worthwhile in conjunctivitis.

It is worth mentioning two things about conjunctivitis:
  • Atypical conjunctivitis infections are more problematic.  If herpetic, chlamydia or gonococcal infection is suspected specialist input is advisable.
  • Neonates are the exception to this conservative approach to conjuntivitis.  For a full explanation regarding why and how to manage the newborn baby with an eye infection, click this link.
When infection spreads to the periorbital tissues, it is a different matter.  Infection of the skin and subcutaneous infections around the eye is usually bacterial and is associated with more invasive infection.
Image from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Complications of invasive infection include:
  • Loss of eyesight (optic nerve damage, retinal detachment, retinal artery thrombosis)
  • Meningitis
  • Intracranial abscess
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis
Although these complications are serious, they are mainly associated with orbital, or post septal cellulitis - infection of the tissues in the orbit (eye socket).  Infection confined to the pre-septal tissues is usually uncomplicated and low risk.
[Medical illustration credit to Naomi Snelson]

Telling the difference between pre-septal cellulitis and orbital cellulitis is about looking for signs and symptoms that could indicate orbital cellulitis.  In the absence of red-flag symptoms, it is assumed that the infection is pre-septal.

The management of pre-septal cellulitis has evolved considerably over time.  Many centres used to treat even pre-septal cellulitis as an inpatient with antibiotics given intravenously to begin with.  It is now much more normal to treat pre-septal cellulitis with oral antibiotics.
While some who have made this move choose to follow up and review the patient (often at about two days into their oral antibiotics) there are strong arguments for safety-netting and no planned follow-up.  When a child is sent home on oral antibiotics for pre-septal cellulitis, things will go one of two ways.  If treatment is successful, there will be significant improvement within the first two days.  If that happens, follow-up adds nothing.

If treatment is unsuccessful, signs and symptoms will worsen.  If that happens, there is a risk that a planned follow-up will delay escalation of treatment.  If things are getting worse, the child needs to be seen and admitted for intravenous antibiotics immediately, rather than waiting for their review appointment.

Safety-netting advice for children discharged on oral antibiotics for pre-septal cellulitis
Return for immediate assessment if-
  • the child becomes febrile or unwell
  • the swelling becomes visibly worse
  • eye movements are affected
  • vision is affected
  • the child is unable to take their antibiotics
  • the child starts vomiting
This simple approach is another great way to safely keep children out of hospitals.  That has always been a good thing but there has never been a better time to avoid unnecessary admissions than now.

Edward Snelson

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

There, I've Said It: There is No Such Thing as Early Sepsis

Words are really important when it comes to communication.  Certainly, non-verbal communication counts for a lot, but words are very powerful ways of getting a message across.  We should be responsible about how we use them.

Diagnostic error in paediatrics is a very emotive issue.  If a clinician is wrong (always in retrospect) and a child is involved, it can be difficult to be objective.  No-one is right all the time though, and diagnoses  that are later apparent are sometimes easy to miss or even too elusive to reasonably detect in their early stages.

There is one important exception to this: sepsis, because there is no such thing as early sepsis.  This is really important because clinicians are both criticised and self-critical when a child has been diagnosed with sepsis and there was an earlier clinical contact.

You're going to want me to back this one up no doubt.  I haven't got any academic references, but I don't need them since it's a case of simple logic.  I'm going to Spock the heck ot of the idea of early sepsis.
Starting with the terminology that we are working with, there is already difficulty with the definition of sepsis.  Ever since the word ceased to mean infection in any form and came to be used for an effect of the infection, sepsis has remained impossible to decisively define.

The best definition that we have of sepsis "a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection," comes from the 2016 Third International Consensus Definitions for Sepsis and Septic Shock.  This definition is inherently subjective.  There is no formula and no test.  Note also the lack of attempt to define early sepsis at this event.
Why do I care if people use the term early sepsis?  Because words.

The term early sepsis implies that there is a clearly definable and therefore recognisable entity which has therefore earned its own name.  Implications are more dangerous than overt statements because they go unchallenged and become part of the profession's assumption that because a term is used, it must be valid.

The harm of the term being given validity is that (again with the logic) if it is a definable entity, whenever a child is diagnosed with sepsis and they had an earlier contact with a clinician, that person has failed to recognise early sepsis.  In reality, they will have seen a child with features that are attributable to sepsis.  These features are also commonly found in children who are febrile but not sepstic.

How damaging is that?  Apart from the medicolegal implications, the negative impact on a clinician's confidence and reputation is potentially huge.  Using the term early sepsis risks leaving a string of second victims in its wake.

Just to be clear, I am 100% behind the idea of recognising sepsis early.  Swapping those words around is all it takes to make them functional again.  I'm also all for anything that improves the early recognition and treatment of sepsis.  So far, no strategy has proved successful in achieving earlier diagnosis of sepsis in children.  Awareness, careful clinical assessment are key, as is treating every illness as dynamic.  That is why appropriate observation and good safety-netting are key interventions.  Whether the child is managed at home or in a health-care setting, no illness is 100% safe until the child is better.

The focus on sepsis over the past decade or so has improved the timely treatment when sepsis is diagnosed, but making that decision in the first place remains a complex business.  Here's a nice oversimplifiaction of that process:
The red and green patients are relatively easy in terms of decision making.  The amber patients represent a small uncertainty which needs to be managed expertly.  In the small proportion that later become red and therefore relatively easy to define as having sepsis, retrospectively calling the preceding illness "early sepsis" defies logic and undervalues the difficulties of managing a large volume of moderately unwell children.

Next time you hear someone talk about recognition of early sepsis, politely challenge them and explore whether they mean early recognition of sepsis.  Sepsis is a thing.  The point when an illness goes from not sepsis to sepsis is not sudden and therefore easily missed.  Implying that there is a clearly definable and recognisable thing called early sepsis risks the vilification of front line clinicians in both primary and secondary care.

Edward Snelson

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Work Hack I Never Expected - How a Rainbow Badge Transformed Mental Health Consultations

Adolescent mental health is an area of practice where we need to take opportunities when they present themselves. This post is about something that has been a huge game changer for me.
When a young person comes with a mental health problem we look at various factors that are involved.  One of the most important factors that affect mental health is sense of self.  Like all elements of mental health, sense of self is complicated.  It is important that young people feel safe and accepted in order to be resilient to the stresses of adolescence.  This is a time of life where identity is being formed, and to do that safely requires an environment which allows a young person to explore who they might be.

If a young person feels that any element of who they are or might be is unsafe in any way, this creates anxiety.

While sexual orientation is only one element of a young person’s sense of self, in a world where heterosexuality is considered normal, a young person may not feel that discussing any other sexuality is a safe thing to do.  They may be concerned that they will experience rejection by family, friends or anyone that they discuss their sexuality with.  In many cases, they have already risked discussing this issue and experienced a negative response.

As health care professionals, we should be routinely asking the right questions to identify any issue that may be a factor in a mental health presentation in adolescents.  We should ask about stressors in general but it is also routine to ask specifically about common anxieties.  The more likely it is that the thing may not be volunteered, the more important it is to ask.

There are many reasons why health care professionals might themselves feel anxious about asking a young person about sexuality.  Here are a few of the common ones:

We don’t have experience of discussing sexuality with young people.  If you don’t have a framework for doing this, you’re not alone.  Very few of us grew up in an environment where anything other than heterosexuality was considered normal.  Unless you have experience of a society where any sexuality is accepted without judgement, it is likely that you will feel a little bit weird about discussing these issues.  The irony is that we might feel anxious that we will somehow get it wrong.

The solution: just do it.  The best way to get past the weird is to be brave and trust that your attempt will be well received.  Step out in faith.

We are worried that the parent(s) may be angry that we have this discussion with their child.  Our anxiety is often seated in our knowledge that society is still heteronormalised and that some people are fearful or uncertain of any other sexuality.  There may also be a fear based in the misconception that by asking about sexuality, we somehow alter or influence it.  That is an interesting and unfounded belief.  There is no evidence that an open discussion can result in a change in sexuality.

The solution: Speak to the young person on their own.  This should be a normal part of a mental health assessment in a young person.  We wouldn't allow a parent to be a barrier to acting in their child's best interest in any other circumstance, so why let a social anxiety be harmful now?

We are worried about the response that we might get from the young person.   I’ll be honest here, this fear is reasonably rational.  If you ask a young person about their sexual orientation they may well give you a funny look and a muted response.  That’s fair.  When you are 15 years old, it is not something that comes up in conversation with an adult that you just met 10 minutes ago.

The solution:  Expect the question to make some young people feel awkward, but put them at ease by asking the question like it’s just another question.

There is another thing that can help with all of the above.  Last year I started wearing a rainbow badge.  The badge is small but always visible.  The idea is that it lets people know that I don’t judge people based on their sexuality.  To me, people are people.  While there are things that will change my opinion of someone, sexual orientation is not one of these.

When I started wearing the badge, I thought that my patients wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t know what the message behind the badge was.  I was wrong.

Immediately after I started wearing the badge, I noticed a change in the way that mental health consultations went.  When asking open questions about stressors, a significant number of young people started volunteering that their sexuality was a major factor in their presentation.  The stories varied from young people who were unsure about their sexuality but were afraid to discuss this with anyone to those who knew that they were not heterosexual but had experienced unpleasant responses to that when telling their family or friends.

I think that starting to wear a rainbow badge has been one of the most important innovations in my career.  I never expected such a small thing to make my life easier in such a big way.  I’m now somewhat concerned that the use of the rainbow as a symbol in the COVID-19 pandemic may have diluted the impact of my rainbow badge but I hope it hasn’t.

It may not have been designed as an part of a mental health toolkit, but for me, the rainbow badge has become an essential piece of equipment for my job.  2020 has been an odd year.  It turns out that I don’t need a tongue depressor, but I do need a rainbow badge.

Edward Snelson
Also ship-shape award badge owner

Monday, 22 June 2020

Heat Related Problems in Children

As a heatwave hits the UK, we can expect a significant number of children to present with heat related problems.  In the vast majority of cases, these will be benign and self-limiting.  In a small proportion, heat can cause serious illness.

The effects of excessive environmental heat in children are well described but there is a lack of a decent evidence base regarding incidence and effectiveness of treatment.  It is often stated that children are more at risk due to their increased body surface area to weight ratio, however true heat related illness is rare in children and admission to hospital is even less common.  It is likely that there are several protective factors including their robust physiological compensatory mechanisms and human factors which help to keep them from becoming seriously unwell.

Common heat related presentations in children

Heat rash (Miliaria)

Also called prickly heat or sweat rash, a raised erythematous itchy rash is a common problem during a heatwave.  The pathogenesis is to do with increased sweat gland secretion and the inflammatory effects of this.  Miliaria is not harmful but it is uncomfortable.

The child with miliaria will be well and there are no systemic effects.

Prevention and non-pharmacological treatment are one and the same for miliaria.  Avoiding prolonged exposure to excess heat is the single most important intervention.  Parents should enable the child to rest in a cool environment out of the sun.  Unsurprisingly hydration is also important.

Pharmacological interventions include calamine lotion and antihistamines.

Swollen hands and feet (Heat oedema)

Heat oedema is less common than heat rash but also seen in significant numbers of children during a heatwave.  The mechanism for this occurring is the physiological peripheral dilation of the peripheries.  As with miliaria, there will be no systemic effects on the child, who should be otherwise and obviously well.

Non-pharmacological treatments are also the mainstay of treatment of heat oedema.  Diuretics should never be used due to the risk of precipitation dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.  Cooling down, resting and drinking are what these children need.


This is not really a heat related problem but is seen much more commonly during a heatwave.  When the sun is out, children often play outdoors with more skin exposed.  Certain plants leave chemicals on the skin which are activated by sunlight.  This then leads to dermatitis.

Children with phytodematitis will be well but have an itchy papular rash in areas of exposed skin, sparing the area that was clothed at time of exposure.  The rash is usually self-limiting but in some cases can go on to cause hyperpigmentation.  Acutely treatment is symptomatic with antihistamines and a short course of topical steroids as pharmacological options.


Again, sunburn is not caused by heat but by exposure to sunlight.  Significant sunburn can be a contributing factor to dehydration.  It should therefore be included in the assessment of risk when a child presents with more significant heat related symptoms.


Children and young people are well known to have a high incidence of vasovagal syncope.  The reason for this peak, often seen in adolescents is not fully understood.  Heat related syncope is also a reasonably common presentation in children and young people.  As with vasovagal syncope, the assessment of heat related syncope in children is all about establishing a typical history and excluding red flags.

The child with heat syncope who has made a good recovery should be managed with preventative measures to avoid a further episode - rest, a cool environment and good hydration.  Note that there is no specific evidence to recommend any specific hydration fluid over another for these minor heat related illnesses.  Water is probably as good a place to start as any.

Uncommon heat related presentations in children

Heat related illness that makes a child systemically unwell is relatively uncommon.  When it does occur, there are usually risk factors or extreme and prolonged exposure to excessive heat.  Paediatric patients most at risk of significant heat related illness are those who cannot regulate their own fluid intake or clothing/ environment such as babies and children with neurodisability that impairs the ability to self-care.

The greatest risk usually comes from the combination of risk factor and environment, such as a baby left in a car on a hot day.

Another risk factor is the extremem change in environmental temperature.  Humans have an ability to adapt to different environments, a process that occurs over the space of weeks.  This allows us to cope with the change in seasons.  When weather goes from a relatively cool period to very hot weather suddenly (i.e. a heat wave), that adaptation can't happen, thus the sudden rise in heat related illnesses disproportionate to the actual outside temperature.

Significant heat related illness is different from the above conditions because there are systemic manifestations of a combination of over-heating and dehydration.  The range of presentations is a spectrum of illnesses which include heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat stress

Heat stress is the mildest form of heat related illness with systemic effect.  With heat stress, the child is feeling the effects of heat and they will let you know about it in an age appropriate way.  Children with heat stress may be tired, grumpy, and have headache or general aches and pains.  Babies will cry excessively or be fussy with feeds.

A key feature of heat stress is that body temperature is not raised and there is normal function.  Heart rate is normal if the child is settled.

Heat stress should be managed with paracetamol (acetaminophen) for the pain*, rest, oral fluids and a cool environment.  This can be done in a pre-hospital setting with safety-netting advice.

*Paracetamol does not reduce body heat when it is due to environment and dehydration.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a more extreme systemic effect from the same combination of excessive heat and poor hydration.  Children with heat exhaustion will be more unwell and are on a downward spiral as they may start to vomit or have diarrhoea.  They will be more affected by how unwell they feel, but their conscious level should be normal.

The child with heat exhaustion is likely to have a raised body temperature somewhere above 38°C but below 40°C.  Dehydration and the heat effect will manifest as tachycardia and the child will look more unwell.  End organ function is still normal at this stage, but the child is at risk of deterioration due to the cycle of symptoms impairing hydration.

The management of heat exhaustion is similar to heat stress but with the addition of active cooling.  The most commonly recommended method for this is to place the child in a cool bath.  The temperature of water for this intervention is ill-defined but it should feel cool and not be cold enough to make the child shiver.  An alternative way of cooling is the use of cool wet towels.

Children with heat exhaustion may be managed in an Emergency Department or Paediatric acute ward and discharged when they are normalising.  Oral hydration is normally achievable.  If vomiting is an issue, anti-emetics or nasogastric fluids are options.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is rare in children.  It is the seriously ill end of the spectrum of heat related illness.  Like sepsis, it has a definition that doesn't work well in the initial assessment of the child.  For the front line clinician, the bottom line is that the child who looks seriously unwell due to heat exposure should be presumed to have heat stroke.

One of the most consistent features is the central nervous system effects of heat stroke.  Children become severely confused or agitated to begin with and then progress to coma.  Seizures are a common problem in heat stroke and risk further increasing body temperature.

As with all heat related illness, simple measures are still important.  The child should have clothing removed and placed in a cool environment as soon as possible.  Applying cool wet towels can be used to begin the cooling process.  Once in a hospital setting the child will need critical care level management.  Airway management, venous access and intravenous fluids (room temperature normal saline) are all key interventions while getting expert help.  For the hospital physician wanting more information about the ongoing management of heat stroke in children, I would recommend this article.
So, while rashes, swollen peripheries and simple faints are the things that you are most likely to see, there is always the risk that the overheated child is on the slippery slope of heat related illness.  Children who are alert and able to drink can be managed with good advice and safety-netting.  Stay cool, rest up, drink plenty and come back if you're getting worse.

Enjoy the sunshine but stay safe.  If the UK weather does what it normally does, next week's topic will be the management of the hypothermic child.

Edward Snelson

Friday, 5 June 2020

Transient Synovitis of the hip (Irritable hip)

A common presentation in young children is the mysterious limp.  Transient synovitis (irritable hip) of the hip is the most common cause of an unexplained limp under the age of 6.  The current usual practice is to make the diagnosis of irritable hip on clinical grounds.  It is no longer routine practice to support this diagnosis with blood tests or imaging.  This development in practice opens the possibility for a young child with a mysterious limp to be managed outside of a hospital setting where appropriate.

What is transient synovitis of the hip (irritable hip)?
The cause of transient synovitis of the hip is unclear.  It is presumed that most cases are a reactive arthritis with a viral trigger.  Injury can also be implicated but it is unclear whether such associations are causal or simply bring the problem to someone’s attention.  It is also common to find typical features of transient synovitis of the hip in children who have no history of viral illness or injury.  There is therefore no need to rely on a history of a possible trigger to make the diagnosis.

As the name suggests, there is inflammation of the synovium of the hip.  Ultrasound may show or synovial thickening or increased fluid.  Inflammatory markers are not usually significantly raised.  Neither of these investigations is reliable and no longer done routinely since the gold standard is clinical diagnosis.

How is transient synovitis of the hip diagnosed?
Typical features of transient synovitis of the hip are:

  • Unexplained onset of limp (no history of more significant injury consistent with fracture)
  • Well and afebrile child with no signs or symptoms of other significant acute illness
  • Unilateral hip signs – painful or reduced range of movement
If a child has these features and no signs of another cause, the diagnosis is almost certainly irritable hip.  Other important diagnoses to consider are:
  • Septic arthritis - usually presents with fever and complete refusal to weight bear
  • Osteomyelitis - usually febrile and there is localised tenderness or swelling in the bone
  • Toddler fracture - undisplaced fracture of the tibia usually presents with complete refusal to weight bear and has localising signs in the tibia (tender or slightly warm to touch)
  • Other significant fractures are usually accompanied by localised swelling or tenderness and are clinically obvious.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) - This is very uncommon under the age of 6.  Obvious swelling of a single joint (without signs of infection) may indicate a transient arthritis of a joint other than the hip.  If the affected joint is the hip and the diagnosis is JIA, this will probably be clinically indistinguishable from irritable hip.  However the child would only need to be referred if the arthritis persisted for several weeks, so analgesia and watchful waiting is the initial management in any case.  If multiple joints are involved or symptoms cannot be managed easily, early referral is indicated.
  • Perthe's disease - The cause of this disease of the hip is unknown.  The femoral head becomes avascular and breaks down.  The typical age is a school age child but there is some overlap with the age at which irritable hip presents.  The unexplained limp in a child over the age of six should raise suspicion of Perthes disease.  Under the age of six, progressive symptoms or symptoms that fail to improve after a few days are concerning.
  • Non- musculoskeletal - Limp may be a sign of pathology unrelated to the lower limb.  Abdominal pain or scrotal pain can cause a child to limp.
One of the best discriminators between all of these problems is the course of the symptoms.  While symptoms can vary in any illness, a significant fluctuation in pain and limp is most indicative of transient synovitis of the hip.  While syptoms may be still present after three days, it is unusual not to see significant improvement in that time.

A typical presentation, absence of red flags and a classical course of the symptoms usually make it obvious when the problem is irritable hip.  If all of these things apply, management is watchful waiting with good safety netting advice.

Edward Snelson

Sunday, 10 May 2020

COVID question number 6 - What is hyperinflammatory syndrome and how do I recognise it?

At the same time that we are seeing increasing evidence that COVID-19 is less common, less severe and less infectious in children (1), evidence is emerging of a new phenomenon that seems to be related to COVID-19 infection in children: hyperinflammatory syndrome (2).

In a time when people are being encouraged to self-manage febrile illness at home, and primary care has moved to do more remote assessments, the emergence of such a serious clinical entity is worrying.  Although the number of cases remains relatively small, it represents a significant number of seriously unwell children.  Considering how much we focus on the recognition of sepsis in children, current cases of hyperinflammatory syndrome are being reported in numbers comparable to and possibly greater than numbers of children with severe sepsis.

This does not mean that all febrile children should now have a face to face assessment or that all febrile children should be referred to secondary care.  Like sepsis, it is impossible to recognise an entity like hyperinflammatory syndrome before it is clinically apparent.  There is no predictive test.

Like sepsis, we need to be aware of hyperinflammatory syndrome and recognise it where it is manifest, rather than over-diagnose it to the detriment of children with uncomplicated viral illnesses.  So how do we get that balance right?  The answer lies in recognising what is unusual about the illness rather than focusing on the most common features, since these are not necessarily good discriminators.

First, a few FAQs about hyperinflammatory syndrome in children:

What is hyperinflammatory syndrome?
Like sepsis, definitions of hyperinflammation vary and reflect the fact that it is a clinical diagnosis without a binary test or decision tool.  The published literature reflects an uncertainty about pathophysiology but describes a significant number of cases (20 in North London in less than a month) of children with a similar clinical presentation.  The features have been described as most similar to Kawasaki Disease Shock Syndrome (3), a thing so rare that most of us had never heard of it before this recent surge of cases.

Is it caused by COVID-19 infection?
When the initial reports of cases were being circulated without details, it was unclear as to whether this was simply a case of something happening during the COVID-19 pandemic or because of it.  While no official source has yet declared that COVID-19 is definitely the cause, there is plenty of evidence that this is the case.  First, the numbers are highly unusual (4) and there is a pandemic at the moment.  Secondly, many of the children have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.  While a small proportion testing positive could be explained by the background rate of COVID-19 in the community, the positive test rate in these cases seems too high.  At the moment the sample size is too small to be conclusisve.  Finally, the demographic of affected children mirrors that of severe COVID-19 in adults, with a predilection for males and BAME children.  It therefore seems most likely that these cases are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hyperinflammation syndrome that is being reposted is thought to be a post-infection phenomenon, rather than a complication of acute infection.  The exact mechanism for this is unclear.  Clinically, it has features similar to Kawasaki Disease (for which the mechanism is unknown) and some overlap with toxic shock syndrome (which is seen in bacterial infection) so we're on the back foot when it comes to working out pathophysiology.

How do I recognise hyperinflammation in a febrile child?
The reported features of the children presenting with hyperinflammation are a mixture of non-specific signs and symptoms with a few more unusual elements that may help the front-line clinician.
While gastroenterological symptoms were common, I would suggest that this information is of little help to a clinician who sees acutely unwell children.  Diarrhoea, abdominal pain and painful swallowing were all common features in children who later developed hyperinflammation but are also frequently found in other viral illnesses.

In the case series reported in the Lancet, tachycardia was sometimes present and sometimes heart rate was unremarkable.  This is somewhat surprising since this hyperinflammatory syndrome seems to affect the cardiovascular system most severely.  It is also consistent with other serious paediatric presentations, where heart rate is one of the least specific clinical signs, being both falsely concerning and falsely reassuring on many occasions.

Tachypnoea, also a common feature occurring when the child presented with hyperinflammation is a more specific feature.  Uncomplicated viral illnesses in children do not tend to affect breathing other than in the form of a transient tachypnoea while febrile.  Unexplained, consistently fast breathing should therefore be considered clinically significant.  This was reflected in the Lancet case series, the majority of whom had tachypnoea.  Note that the cases reported did not tend to have pneumonia, thus the qualifier of "unexplained".  Other explanations for fever and abnormal breathing remain more likely.

The other feature that was most consistent and helpful in discriminating from uncomplicated viral illness was an unrelenting fever.  In children with an uncomplicated viral illness, pyrexia can be dramatic and associated with alarming features such as shivering, cold peripheries, blue lips and mottled skin.  Typically, this is followed by a dramatic improvement, often with the aid of antipyretic medication.

In the cases reported with suspected hyperinflammation secondary to COVID-19 infection, the fever was noted to have been persistently high (38-40 C/ 100.4-104 F) which is much less commonly seen in uncomplicated viral illness.  This may therefore be one of the more useful ways of telling the two apart.

Other features reported include a "variable rash" and painful extremities.  Rashes and pains are common features of uncomplicated viral infection but in combination with the more specific features may help clinicians recognise the syndrome early.
Recognising hyperinflammation (presumed to be related to COVID-19 infection in children) early may therefore be a case of recognising the unusual, looking for alternative explanations such as pneumonia and if no other pathology explains how unwell the child is, looking at how many of the less specific symptoms are present.  If that sounds familiar, that's because it is a similar approach to recognising Kawasaki disease.

The disease then tends to progress to a phase with more significant cardiac involvement, with a profound effect on circulation in many cases.  Shock refractory to fluid boluses is a commonly reported feature.

If signs of shock develop, this will make it more straightforward to recognise that the child does not have an uncomplicated viral illness.  Distinguishing hyperinflammatory shock syndrome from sepsis and other similar presentations brings its own challenges for emergency medicine and acute paediatrics.

Edward Snelson
  1. Munro APS, Faust SN, Children are not COVID-19 super spreaders: time to go back to school Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 05 May 2020. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2020-319474
  2. Riphagen S., Gomez X., Gonzalez-Martinez C., Wilkinson N., Theocharis P., Hyperinflammatory shock in children during COVID-19 pandemic, Lancet, May 07, 2020 doi:
  3. Kanegaye JT, Wilder MS, Molkara D, et al. Recognition of a Kawasaki disease shock syndrome. Pediatrics. 2009;123(5):e783‐e789. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-1871

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

What am I missing? The child with fever but no obvious cause

The fear that a significant illness wil go unreconised in a child is one that is always present for the clinician who sees acutely unwell children.  The stories that we hear of infections and other illnesses being "missed" fuels that anxiety.  The common sense side of us tells us that significant illness should manifest itself in an obvious way, but that doesn't stop us from asking the question, "What am I missing?" when we see a child with a febrile illness and no apparent cause?


You have just seen Billy, a 1 year old child with a fever that started today.  They have no cough or runny nose.  They appear well and have a heart rate of 120.  Chest is clear, heart sounds are normal and abdomen is soft.  Tympanic membranes are not inflamed.  You may or may not have looked at their throat but if you did, there is nothing obvious to see.

What do you do?

The answer to this is to understand what the possible causes of fever are, know how to exclude them and have an idea of how likely they are.  The latter brings us onto an important question:

How likely is significant or dangerous infection in a child?

That depends on the child.

The most common risk factor that we encounter is the infant.  The likelihood of an unwell newborn having a significant infection is high.  This is further compounded by their non-specific symptoms and lack of physiological response in the first few weeks of life.  The risk of serious infection multiplied by the risk of underestimating the illness makes a baby under the age of 60 days a high risk patient.

After those first few weeks, the infant becomes less reliant on maternal antibodies and begins to produce a more vigorous response to infection, most of which are now viral.  As a result, the risk diminishes inversely.

Other risky patients are those with ongoing reasons to either have more significant infections or less obvious signs of serious illness.  These include children with neurodisability, immunodeficiency or chronic illness.

For the usually healthy child beyond early infancy, the very great probability is that an illness will be benign and that those infections that are dangerous will manifest themselves in some significant way.  This itself brings a challenge: complacency.  We become so used to good outcomes and fruitless investigations that we start to think that everything is an uncomplicated viral infection.
It usually is, but what if it isn't?  That brings us on to the next question:

What are the less common causes of fever in a child?

One way to think about the causes is within categories:
When there are so many possibilities, it is often best to consider the least common first.  Let's start with the non-infective.  These illnesses cause inflammation without active infection.  They are all very uncommon compared to other things on the list but that makes them easy to forget and therefore miss.

Kawasaki Disease - This is a vasculitis which can look like a prolonged viral illness.  The cause has not yet been identified but it is presumed to be a post-infective phenomenon.  If a child has had a fever for five or more days without a clear cause, we should check if the child fulfils the criteria for Kawasaki disease.  You can check the criteria in a book or use an online tool such as this one linked here.

Leukaemia - Haematological malignancy in children occasionally presents as an unexplained and prolonged pyrexia.  More often there are other symptoms and signs such as increasing lethargy, weight loss, pallor, bruising, bleeding and unexplained pains.

Systemic Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) - this subtype of JIA is rare but is one possible cause of unexplained fever.  Often the fever is accompanied by a typical salmon pink rash and joint pains, even if there is no clinically obvious joint swelling yet.

These non-infective causes of fever should not be over-thought.  The presenting symptoms of childhood illness are often so non-specific that it can be all to easy to imagine zebras instead of horses.  The key to not missing these is to be aware of them as entities and to look for features of these in the child with unexplained fever, especially when that fever is prolonged.

Next, the sepsis question.  Every febrile child should be assessed for sepsis, whether a focus the fever is found or not.  That decision can be made easy for you in one of two ways.  Either the child is very well to the extent that sepsis can be ruled out, or the child is so unwell that sepsis is presumed.  Everything in between is a case of careful assessment, including risk factors and the trajectory of the illness.
So, if we have considered the very rare and the sepsis question, what we should be left with is a child who we think does not have sepsis and yet has a fever without an immediately obvious focus.  At this point we return to the list of possibilities.
The task in a child with fever and no clear focus is to rule these possibilities out, which is usually based on clinical assessment.  Start with the complications of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) as these are the most common significant infections in children.

Mastoiditis - infection of the mastoid is usually a complication of otitis media infection there should be evidence of that.  Mastoiditis is excluded clinically if there is no erythema, swelling or significant tenderness of the mastoid process.

Peritonsillar abscess - A collection of pus in the peritonsillar tissues is manifested by swelling which displaces the tonsil.  At the time of writing this, throat examination is not routinely performed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, peritonsillar abscess is highly unlikely in a child who is willing to drink or eat.  If the child is refusing all oral intake, it may be necessary to use droplet PPE, including eye protection, to visually exclude peritonsillar abscess.

Lymph node abscess - Inflamed or enlarged lymph nodes are a common finding in children with URTI. Occasionally, the lymph node becomes bacterially infected.  When this happens, the lymph node is more enlarged and painful.  The overlying skin is often erythematous.  Another common feature is that the child becomes reluctant to turn their neck due to the pain from inflammation of the surrounding tissues.  These infected lymph nodes may respond to high dose oral antibiotics, however they may require incision and drainage.  Discussion with or referral to ENT is therefore advisable.

Osteomyelitis and septic arthritis - This is a good example of something that is rare but also often missed when it is a cause of unexplained fever.  Infection in a bone or joint can be visible or hidden.  If a parent has noticed a swollen, red or hot area or that the child has localising signs in a limb, that can lead to early diagnosis.  It is also the case that in a significant number of cases, the infection is not identified early on.  It is no surprise when a febrile child is miserable and moves less.  It is not common practice for clinicians to examine every bone and joint in a febrile child.  However, this is something that needs to be done if a child has an unexplained fever.  If limbs have not been examined for swelling, hot spots or erythema at first presentation, I would suggest that this should be done at the second assessment should fever persist and remains unexplained.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) - UTI is probably the most common cause of fever without a clinically obvious focus in children.  The younger the child, the less likely they are to present with specific symptoms.  Fever without obvious cause is an indication to screen the child for UTI.  Blind treatment with antibiotics is not recommended.  Urine should ideally be sent for culture so that treatment is based on the most robust result - a significant bacterial growth.

Meningitis and encephalitis - Central nervous system (CNS) infection is the most feared of the causes of fever without focus.  In the younger child, symptoms are less specific.  Infants may be irritable, jittery and not feeding well.  Vomiting and excessive sleeping are also common features but again, non-specific.  In an infant with an open fontanelle, this should be examined.  A bulging fontanelle (when not crying) is a red flag sign.  Older children may exhibit classical signs of neck stiffness, headache and photophobia.  Younger children are more likely to stand out because they just won't settle or have an abnormal tone or conscious level.  CNS infection is usually ruled out by the child demonstrating normal interaction or behaviour, often after adequate analgesia has been provided.

Appendicitis - In an older child, recognising appendicitis is done in a similar way to adult practice.  Appendicitis is rare in younger children but when it does occur, it can easily be missed.  Guarding tends to be a later sign in the pre-school child because their abdominal wall muscles are not very strong.  Children often cry or otherwise appear distress when their abdomen is examined, leaving the clinician uncertain.  Analgesia and reassessment is a good way of clinically ruling out appendicitis if the initial assessment is ambiguous.

Pneumonia and empyema - Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) is common in children.  Cough and fever are non-specific symptoms and are not grounds for diagnosing LRTI on their own.  Hearing crepitations on auscultation is also a common finding that should not be given too much weight.  Many LRTIs in children are viral and self-limiting.  Important discriminators are how unwell the child is, their work of breathing and more specific focal signs such as localised reduced air entry or a dull percussion note.
Tropical diseases - If a child has an unexplained fever and has recently returned from an area with e.g. malaria, they need to be referred to secondary care for investigation.

And finally...

So if Billy looks well and behaves in a way that effectively rules out sepsis and meningitis, his fever without clear focus means that we should look just a bit harder.  A urine sample should be taken to exclude UTI; blind treatment with antibiotics is not recommended without good evidence of UTI.

If there are reasons to suspect one of the less common (than uncomplicated viral infection) causes of fever, referral to secondary is likely to be the way forward.  If there is no evidence of a significant cause and what you are left with is a reasonably well child with an unexplained fever, the final question is, "should I refer this child or send them home with safety-netting advice?"

Both options are valid and the choice should be made in the best interest of the child.  In secondary care, the assessment of the child should be clinical in the majority of cases.  As such, referral may simply add a further clinical history and examination.  If a second opinion or physical period of observation is felt to in the child's interest, that is fine.  If not, it may be best to keep the child away from hospital and the risks associated with a secondary healthcare setting/

Before a final decision is made, risk should be considered.  For the majority of healthy children presenting to Primary Care (including the Emergency Department) with no specific risk factors, the likelihood of any febrile illness being a serious bacterial illness is very low.  That makes it perfectly reasonable for a child who has had a careful clinical assessment to be managed conservatively and with good safety-netting advice.

There are children who have a significantly higher risk.  As mentioned above, the most commonly encountered risk factor is the baby.  If your patient is a baby, especially if not yet started on their primary vaccinations, fever without focus warrants a referral to paediatrics.
Fever in a child who does not have an immediately obvious focus is a clinical conundrum for all of us.  Many children can be managed with a thorough history and examination.  If there are significant risk factors or specific findings then appropriate referral is likely to be the next step.

Edward Snelson
99% Type 1 decision maker

Disclaimer: If it's the clinician who has no focus, there's nothing I can do for you.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Uncomplicated febrile convulsions in children - where and who to diagnose?

This is the first in a series of posts that explore the clinical scenarios that can be managed entirely in a pre-hospital setting but are often or sometimes sent for further assessment.  In each case, I know that some primary care clinicians do fully manage these problems without involving secondary care.  The aim of these posts is to explore the possibility that the condition can be managed without secondary care.

Clinical scenario

A two year old has been managed symptomatically by their parents for what seems to them to be a viral illness.  The child developed a fever this morning which led the parents to give paracetamol.  Shortly afterwards, the child became stiff and then had rhythmic jerking of all four limbs.  This continued for less than a minute.  During the seizure the child was completely unresponsive and went slightly blue.  Their eyes were fixed and staring.

The jerking movements ceased spontaneously and the child was then sleepy for a few minutes, followed by some crying.

In less than an hour, the child is back to their normal self.  They are alert, settled, interactive and mobilising.

If they manage to get to see a primary care clinician, should they be referred to secondary care for further assessment?

While in the majority of such cases parents will present to secondary care, first febrile convulsions can present to General Practice or be seen initially by a paramedic advanced clinical practitioner.  To explore the value of ensuring a secondary care assessment, we need to look at the answers to a few other questions.

What is a febrile convulsion (seizure)?

A febrile convulsion is like an epileptic seizure in every way other than that it is symptomatic of an illness rather than being due to underlying idiopathic epilepsy.  Anyone who doesn't have epilepsy can have a symptomatic seizure (e.g. due to head injury or hypoglycaemia).  Epilepsy is different - the tendency to have seizures without a specific cause.

A febrile convulsion will look the same as an epileptic seizure.  You can presume that a seizure is a febrile convulsion if it fulfils the following criteria:

  • Typical age of 1-6 years old
  • Child has a febrile illness (the timing of the fever and seizure are unimportant as long as the illness is current)
  • Child has no underlying neurological or developmental abnormality
  • The seizure is followed by a full return to normal for the child

A febrile convulsion can be atypical, prolonged or focal in which case the possibility of significant pathology is increased and those children should be seen urgently in secondary care.

What causes a febrile convulsion?

The current thinking is that the illness is the thing that somehow causes the seizure.  The idea that the fever itself causes the convulsion was first questioned in an article in ADC in 2003.  Since there is a lack of correlation between the timing of the fever and the seizure, and there is a lack of evidence that antipyretics are preventative, it is likely that the illness causes the seizure and the fever.

Does a febrile seizure indicate serious pathology?

Although medical literature contains list of possible underlying pathology, a true febrile convulsion by definition cannot have an underlying cause.  If a seizure is caused by an underlying CNS infection or other neuropathology, the diagnosis is not a febrile convulsion.  If a child with meningitis has a seizure, the diagnosis is meningitis with seizure.

This is why the return to baseline (i.e. as well as can be expected for an uncomplicated viral illness) is arguably the most important part of the diagnosis.  If, post seizure the child fails to demonstrate their wellness and neurological normality, the seizure may be symptomatic of CNS infection or other abnormality. An atypical, prolonged or focal seizure also changes the index of suspicion greatly.

What tests are needed following a febrile convulsion?

If the diagnosis of febrile convulsion is as above and was a self-limiting generalised tonic-clonic seizure, no tests are required.

So what happens when a child is seen in secondary care following an uncomplicated febrile convulsion?

The history and examination is repeated.  Unless there are specific indications for further tests (clinical suspicion of CNS infection or abnormality) everything else is unnecessary.

Essentially the endpoint in straightforward cases is a history and examination which leads to a diagnosis of febrile convulsion.  So, if the diagnosis is already made, making it again adds absolutely nothing.

Who makes the diagnosis, when and where is more about timing, availability and clinical knowledge/ ability.  If you're the right clinician in the right place at the right time, congratulations.  It's you.

Edward Snelson

COVID Questions No 5 - How can I help? (Introducing the Zombie Apocalist)

As we enter the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are asking, "How can I help?"  Regardless of our trepidation, we recognise the gravity of the situation.  I myself anticipate that over the next few weeks and months, my personal and professional comfort zones will be most likely obliterated.  I cannot expect things to be business as usual.

However, this crisis also presents a unique opportunity for front line clinicians.  We have an urgent need to be pragmatic in our practices.  This need is driven by several factors.
In Paediatric Emergency Medicine, many of us are looking at ways that we can safely achieve a more pragmatic approach to a variety of situations for the benefit of staff, children and their families.  Because COVID-19 has dramatically changed the risk/ benefit analysis for what we do, it is an opportunity to consider what is low risk and low benefit in our usual practice, and find ways of reducing the times when we might previously have observed, investigated or referred.

As it happens, I have had an opportunity to explore this question prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I do a great deal of face-to-face education with a variety of clinicians who work in primary care and emergency or acute paediatrics.  In those sessions, I often hear that there is a great deal of variation in practice for certain clinical scenarios.  The clinicians involved make different decisions based on their experience, confidence and the environment in which they work.  It is inevitable for example that a GP working in a remote setting is going to have a different view about referring a patient than someone who sees a similar patient in a city with easy access to a secondary care setting.

As a way of exploring the fringes of clinical practice, I sometimes ask the zombie apocalypse question.  It goes like this: You've just said that you would normally refer this child for a secondary care review.  Now imagine that something has happened that means that there is a risk to the patient from going for that assessment (e.g. zombie apocalypse).  Would you still ask for that further assessment or would you feel that it is safer for the patient to be managed outside of hospital?

Whenever the answer is no, the condition goes on a list of things that need referral no matter what.  In such cases, (e.g suspected meningitis) we are saying that there is a clear need for that referral.  If the answer is that we felt that the change in the risk/ benefit analysis would lead us to a different decision, the condition goes on the zombie apocalist.

Here's a list of the things that commonly end up on the zombie apocalypse list, based on the consensus of the clinicians at various educational events. (Note: all are specific to patients who are children or young people)
[For more detail on the safe assessment and management of each scenario, click on the problem for the link.  If there is no link yet, it will be covered in a post in the near future.]

There are a number of reasons why people are referring or otherwise taking an over-cautious approach to these situations
In each of the situations on the above list, the question that we should ask is, "What will observation, referral or investigation add?"  If any of these actions is primarily intended to add a sense of reassurance for the clinician, we should question that practice in the light of COVID-19 risk.  When I say we, I mean both primary and secondary care clinicians.  If over-caution exists, it can only do so due to a lack of functional teamworking between primary and secondary care.

So when we're asking how can we help with the current crisis, it may not be a case of re-deployment but of adaptation.  One change that could have a significant impact is a renaissance of pragmatism.

My next task is to give a bit more flesh to the pragmatic approach to each of those clinical scenarios.  The posts about each will follow over the next few weeks.  I hope you find them useful in removing the reasons for possible over-caution listed above.  Alternatively, they may simply validate what you are already doing or have always wanted to do but didn't know that it was acceptable practice.

In the meantime, all of the potential drivers of over-caution can also be remedied by a case discussion with an experienced paediatrician.  You should find that your secondary care colleagues welcome the opportunity to allow you to safely manage these scenarios in a pre-hospital setting where appropriate.

Edward Snelson

Saturday, 28 March 2020

COVID Questions No 4 - What PPE should I wear at the moment and when should I wear it? (Updated 2 April 2020)

This post was originally written on 28th March 2020 and then significantly updated on 2 April 2020 in line with new PHE UK guidance published on that day.

Understandably, there is a lot of confusion and anxiety about the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is needed to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection being acquired by healthcare professionals.  Guidance is continually changing and the need to to protect ourselves as healthcare professionals in very real.

Different PPE is available for different circumstances and this post will explain what we are advised we should use and when according to the latest Public Health England (PHE) guidance.  Please note that this advice is continually being reviewed and updated.  I will also explore some of the pragmatic ways that we can reduce our infection risk and explain some of the complexities of the PHE guidance.  I will do my best to keep this post up to date but it is essential to look at the most recent guidance from your relevant organisation since decisions about PPE use are also made locally depending on the known prevalence of COVID-19 in specific areas.

There are two main things to understand when using PPE.  The first is what level of risk there is and the other is what level of precaution is advised for that level of risk.

What is the level of risk?

Working in a health care organisation already confers a certain level of risk.  In a time when we are asking people to undertake "social distancing," healthcare workers are going into environments which are probably the most densely populated public buildings at the moment.  These buildings contain the patients and staff in our area most likely to transmit COVID-19 infection.  As such, just turning up to work means that we come into an area where it is difficult to avoid people who put us at some risk.  Every door handle, computer keyboard and telephone is a potential way of catching the infection.

For this reason, most public health organisations have advised staff who are high risk should remove themselves from the workplace altogether.

Those who are physically at work can do a lot to protect themselves and their co-workers.  We should be minimising the number of meetings and restricting the number of people at these meetings as much as possible.  We should be vigilant about hand hygiene at all times, especially when we have used a phone, touched a door handle or other surface such as a computer keyboard.  Any way that we can find to avoid hand contact with surfaces should be adopted.  I now have continuous right shoulder pain and a bruise over my greater trochanter from barging doors open that I would previously have pushed with my hand.

Contact with asymptomatic patients (no fever or cough) is relaitively low-risk but still has the potential for infection.  Not enough is known about COVID-19 to be able to say how possible it is that a completely asymptomatic person might infect another person.  What is known is that in the absence of symptoms, the risk of infection comes primarily from direct contact or high risk procedures.  Someone who is not spreading droplets can transfer infection via surfaces or by having physical contact.

Healthcare workers who are seeing asymptomatic patients can reduce their risk in several ways.  Increasingly patient contacts are being avoided, for the benefit of staff and the public.  Clinic visits are becoming telephone or video consultations.  We are finding that there are opportunities to reduce follow-up and we are getting better at safety-netting rather than arranging a "routine" appointment for a review.

The risk of face-to-face clinical examination is being reduced, for example by avoiding throat examination unless it is necessary, rather than including oropharyngeal examination as a routine part of the assessment.

For face-to-face clinical contact that cannot be avoided, the risk of direct transmission of infection should be removed by good hand hygiene and avoidance of high risk procedures.
Now for the most significant change in the new guidance.  When it is determined that you are dealing with a high level of COVID-19, PHE recommend using mask, gown and gloves for all patient contact or close proximity, whether symptomatic or not.  That decision is made by individual health care providers based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in their patient population.
If a person is working in an area with symptomatic patients but has no direct patient contact and is not within 2 metres (about 6 feet) of patients, PHE recommends that a fluid resistant surgical mask is worn.
Contact and close proximity with symptomatic patients carries the further risk of infection transmission by droplets.  These patients are referred to as hot, but the "hot" patient includes children with a cough as well as febrile patients for this reason.  When having face-to-face contact with a symptomatic child, additional PPE is recommended in the form of:
  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable moisture resistant apron
  • Moisture resistant mask (surgical mask)
  • Eye protection if there is a risk of splashing of secretions (e.g. from oropharyngeal examination)
The gloves and apron should be put on before approaching the patient and removed after leaving the patient.  PHE now recommends that the surgical mask can continue to be used afterwards.  It is imprtant to avoid contaminating the mask be touching it.

Droplets are small but large enough so that they will not bypass a surgical mask.  Essentially they are a projectile, not a vapour and so the risk of infection comes from the droplet travelling in a line from the patient to the clinician, not from the air breathed around the mask.  The size of a droplet causes it to be deposited in the upper airway rather than entering the bronchial tree, which is thought to further reduce its infective risk.  For this reason, filtered masks (FFP) as not required when the level of risk is droplet spread.
Contact with contaminated aerosol carries the additional risk that the infection could be breathed in.  The definition of an aerosol is a small droplet (smaller than 10┬Ám) that is capable of being suspended in the room air and breathed in as far as the lower airways.

The current evidence for what creates a risk of aerosol transmitted infection is the basis for the current PHE guidance on when to use the appropriate PPE for this risk.  The current list is as follows:

Procedures included in the current PHE guidance list of areosol generating procedures (AGP)
  • Intubation, extubation and related procedures e.g. manual ventilation and open suctioning of the respiratory tract (including the upper respiratory tract)*
  • Tracheotomy/tracheostomy procedures (insertion/open suctioning/removal)
  • Bronchoscopy and upper ENT airway procedures that involve suctioning
  • Upper Gastro-intestinal Endoscopy where there is open suctioning of the upper respiratory tract
  • Surgery and post mortem procedures involving high-speed devices
  • Some dental procedures (e.g. high-speed drilling)
  • Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) e.g. Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (BiPAP) and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (CPAP)
  • High Frequency Oscillatory Ventilation (HFOV)
  • Induction of sputum
  • High flow nasal oxygen (HFNO)
Note that the wording of some of the list has changed, presumably in an attempt to be more correct.  I think that it is important to point out that one of the most commonly persormed AGPs could be lost in here.  "Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) e.g. Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (BiPAP) and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Ventilation (CPAP)" includes use of bag-valve-mask ventilation.  In the current pandemic, if a child has a respiratory arrest you should put on aerosol PPE before providing CPR.

Rather than get caught up in the science of why things are on or off this list, I would say that the list is possibly better named "very high risk procedures."  The list is compiled by experts who have looked at both the available evidence and the hypothetical risk of each.  My personal opinion is that the list is a valid way of determining when best to use each level of PPE.

Any contact with patients who are undergoing such procedures requires aerosol PPE.
  • Filtering face piece (FFP) mask, which should have been fit tested to the clinician previously
  • Eye protection
  • Disposable gown (with full length arms)
  • Disposable gloves
Avoidance of aerosol generating procedures is also recommended where possible.  For example, it has been recommended that HFOT is not used in COVID-19 babies.

Stay safe.  Avoid unnecessary risk.  Clean everything.  Touch nothing you don't have to. Use the appropriate PPE and don't overuse PPE that is in limited supply and will be much needed for the high risk scenarios over the next few weeks.

Edward Snelson

Disclaimer: In the interests of the infographics not being awful, I did none of the drawings myself.  Full credit for the drawings goes to my vey talented daughter Naomi Snelson.  Thanks for the great pictures.