There is considerable variation in the approach to infants presenting to the emergency department and outpatient clinics with fever without a source. We set out to describe the current clinical practice regarding culture acquisition on febrile young infants and review the outcomes of infants with and without cultures obtained.


This study analyzed Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s electronic medical record to identify all febrile, full term, previously healthy infants born between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013, presenting for care between 7 and 90 days of age.


During this 3-year study, 96 156 full-term infants were born at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. A total of 1380 infants presented for care with a fever with an incidence rate of 14.4 (95% confidence interval: 13.6–15.1) per 1000 full term births. Fifty-nine percent of infants 7 to 28 days old had a full evaluation compared with 25% of infants 29 to 60 days old and 5% of infants 61 to 90 days old. Older infants with lower febrile temperatures presenting to an office setting were less likely to have a culture. In the 30 days after fevers, 1% of infants returned with a urinary tract infection. No infants returned with bacteremia or meningitis.


Fever in a medical setting occurred in 1.4% of infants in this large cohort. Forty-one percent of febrile infants did not have any cultures including 24% less than 28 days. One percent returned in the following month with a urinary tract infection. There was no delayed identification of bacteremia or meningitis.

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