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94842 - Recognising the seriously ill child

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Most acutely unwell children presenting to general practitioners (GPs) have a common self-limiting illness. However, it is essential that GPs recognise the few children with the serious illness from the many with minor illness. This module covers acute illness in children 5 years of age and under. 

Children often present with non-specific symptoms and signs such as fever, vomiting or irritability – the younger the child the more vague the symptoms. Early signs of serious illness may not be obvious. Children who are very ill can look deceptively well because they have a greater capacity for physiological compensation. But the clues are there if you know what to ask and where to look. 

This module is divided into 12 short (30 minute) activities that cover common reasons parents bring their children to the GP: fever, breathing problems, rash, dehydration and abdominal pain. Each activity builds upon the previous one.

Relevance to General Practice

In children under 3 months, we see some variation in GP encounters compared to older children. The most common presentations in this age group include immunisation, six-week check, upper respiratory tract infections, gastro-oesophageal reflux, bronchiolitis, dermatitis, infectious conjunctivitis, irritability and fever. While less than 1% of acutely ill children seen in general practice will have a serious infection, serious infections need to be distinguished from the vast majority of self-limiting infections in children because, although rare, they are associated with considerable morbidity (eg hearing loss, neurologic disability) and mortality. It is therefore essential for all GPs regardless of the context in which they work, to develop confidence in identifying and appropriately managing the seriously ill child.

Learning outcomes
  • outline findings that identify children who need investigations and referrals
  • summarise how to assess a child’s physiological status in the context of fever, breathing problems, rash, vomiting and diarrhoea, and abdominal pain
  • explain how to identify if child is seriously ill
  • outline appropriate management options for children presenting with a range of illnesses
  • manage a child's acute illness in partnership with the child's parents
  • Delivery
    94842 - Recognising the seriously ill child
    6 hours
    Start Date
    End Date
    CPD Points
    6 hours
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