Category Archives: Clinical


Intermittent squeaky inspiratory noise from collapsing larynx during respiration. Usually from birth.

Often worse when lying on back, or with colds, or with reflux (vomits).  Worse if hypognathia eg Pierre-Robin sequence.

Clinical diagnosis usually. Settles in first few months of life.

Will need intervention if significantly increased work of breathing, cyanosis or apnoeas, or growth failure.

Pyrexia of Unknown Origin

A technical term, not just a fever without obvious source! Essentially presence of confirmed fever for 8 days or more in a child in whom a careful thorough history and physical examination, and preliminary laboratory data fail to reveal a probable cause.

Long list of possible causes, long lists of possible tests – do thorough history and repeated examinations, then follow the clues!

In kids, infection is the commonest cause. But can be connective tissue disorder, or malignancy.

Beware factitious fever – admission sensible.

If possible, stop all drugs. Antipyretics may obscure the pattern of fever, and can occasionally be its cause (drug fever is one cause).

Unless the child is critically ill, try not to give antibiotics. If the diagnosis remains obscure, go back and take the history again, examine the child (fully) again, send the specimens again!

Special points in history/examination

  • Travel – malaria can present 6-12 months later. Typhoid.
  • Ethnicity – tuberculosis
  • Outdoor activities – rats/ticks as vectors of infectious diseases
  • Animal contact – cows/sheep (brucellosis), cats (cat scratch)
  • Mouth ulcers (IBD, Behcets, PFAPA)
  • Periodicity – see Periodic fever
  • Sinus tenderness, nasal congestion (sinusitis)
  • Bone/spine tenderness – discitis, vertebral osteomyelitis


  • 3 sets of blood cultures, different sites, different times (at least a few hours apart), off antibiotics – standard for endocarditis
  • ASOT
  • EBV, CMV
  • LDH, CK
  • ANA/RF
  • Urine/stool culture
  • Swab everything!
[Rosie Hague, Current peds 2001]


Could be reduced intake but usually excessive losses –

Renal tubular acidosis (type 1 or 2)Vomiting eg pyloric stenosis
Bartters or Gitelmans syndromeDiarrhoea
DiureticsLaxative overuse
Hyperaldosteronism (CAH, tumour)Thyrotoxicosis
Familial periodic paralysis
Diabetic ketoacidosis

Symptoms depend on severity and how rapidly decrease has happened. Chronic low levels are better tolerated. Since potassium important for membrane potentials, effects are mostly neuromuscular.

  • Cramps, weakness, paralysis
  • Ileus
  • Metabolic acidosis (although underlying cause often produces alkalosis)
  • Arrhythmia, heart failure
  • Rhabdomyolysis

ECG classically shows U waves, T wave flattening, and ST-segment changes. Can be tall wide P waves, can look like long QT if T and U waves merge.

Do urine and blood electrolytes to look at fractional excretion.

[Endocrine connections 2018][Current Treatment Options in Peds 2022]


Common in newborns, presumably due to maternal hormones. Bud underneath the surface, plus swelling of areola/nipple area.

Another peak around puberty, can be unilateral, can be tender. Can progress to be cosmetically problematic.

Exclude a hormonal problem (including prolactinoma and other hormonal tumour):

  • Prepubertal
  • Delayed puberty with no development of penis/testes, no axillary/pubic hair
  • Galactorrhoea
  • Testicular mass

Blistering rashes

Common, typically vesicular rather than bullous:

  • Varicella – tends not to affect mouth or palms/soles cf below, but more toxic
  • Coxsackie – Enteroviruses such as coxsackie nearly always involve buccal mucosa and tongue (eg Hand-Foot-Mouth). If nowhere else, Herpangina tends to be posterior mouth ie tonsils, soft palate.
  • HSV stomatitis tend to be more unwell, higher fever, gingivitis, cervical adenopathy, no cutaneous lesions.
  • Gianotti-Crosti syndrome
  • eczema herpeticum ie HSV superinfection of eczema;
  • mycoplasma (but mycoplasma has been associated with every kind of rash!)


  • disseminated zoster (starts in a dermatome, immunosuppressed);
  • disseminated HSV;
  • vaccinia

For more dramatic blistering:

  • Bullous impetigo
  • Stevens Johnson syndrome esp with plaques, conjunctivitis, lesions at mucocutaneous junctions
  • Urticaria (rarely)
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Pemphigoid (v rare in children)
  • Acrodermatitis enteropathica – genetic (recessive) disorder leading to Zn deficiency. Blistering rash esp peripheries, face and nappy; diarrhoea (Normal Zn is 10-23).


BRUE (Brief Resolved Unexplained Event) from AAP 2016, replacing ALTE (apparent life threatening event).  “Life threatening” is unnecessarily anxiety provoking – and subjective for parents. 

“Brief” is by definition less than 1 minute, but typically 20-30 seconds. Only intended for babies under 1yr.

Guidance for “low risk”:

  • >60 days of age
  • >=32/40 gestation or CGA>=45 weeks
  • No CPR by trained practitioner
  • <1min duration
  • First event
  • No concerning features on history/examination

If low risk criteria fulfilled, no investigations are required – consider gas and urinalysis if clinical concern.

Otherwise depends on history and examination. Consider:

  • Bloods including glucose, gas
  • NPA for bugs
  • ECG

Management could then be a period of observation, or discharge home with safety netting.

AAP advises against home cardiorespiratory monitoring given costs and false alarms vs uncertain benefit.

A US study looking at this guidance found that

  • a serious diagnosis was made in 4.0% of cases; about half the time, the diagnosis was made at the time, but the rest of the time only afterwards.
  • The most common serious diagnoses were seizures and airway abnormalities.
  • The chances of finding a serious diagnosis was higher where there was a history of a similar event (obviously), an event duration >1 minute, an “abnormal” medical history (previous hospitalisation, underlying medical problem), and altered responsiveness as a feature of the event. [Peds 2021]

But I’m disappointed there is no mention in the RHC guidance about SIDS prevention advice.

Pubertal staging

Tanner stages – verbal descriptions but images helpful esp for self assessment.

Pubic Hair Scale (both males and females)

  • Stage 1: No hair
  • Stage 2: Downy hair
  • Stage 3: Scant terminal hair
  • Stage 4: Terminal hair that fills the entire triangle overlying the pubic region
  • Stage 5: Terminal hair that extends beyond the inguinal crease onto the thigh

Female Breast Development Scale

  • Stage 1: No glandular breast tissue palpable 
  • Stage 2: Breast bud palpable under the areola (1st pubertal sign in females)
  • Stage 3: Breast tissue palpable outside areola; no areolar development
  • Stage 4: Areola elevated above the contour of the breast, forming a “double scoop” appearance
  • Stage 5: Areolar mound recedes into single breast contour with areolar hyperpigmentation, papillae development, and nipple protrusion

For males you then have testicular volume, measured by orchidometer (between £26 and £208):

  • 4 ml (1.8cm long by formula below) is first pubertal sign
  • Adult is >20 ml (or >3 cm long)

Cadbury’s Teasers and Truffles (from Celebrations box) are 8ml, equivalent to 50th centile at age 13.

If you only have a ruler, use maximum width in millimetres and the formula: (W-1.5)3 x 0.88, where ss is double scrotal skin thickness (for Tanner stages 1, 2, and 3).