Hyponatraemia has been described in association with a number of acute infectious diseases, mainly bacterial and tuberculous meningitis and pneumonia, and has been attributed to inappropriate secretion of arginine vasopressin (AVP). The mechanism of inappropriate AVP production is uncertain, but there is experimental evidence to suggest that fever may stimulate secretion of AVP into plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. In this study, AVP concentrations in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid from 37 febrile children with infections have been compared with those from 27 afebrile control subjects. Ten of the febrile children had meningitis (eight bacterial, two viral) and the remainder a variety of other infectious diseases. Seventy four per cent of febrile infected children were hyponatraemic (serum sodium less than 135 mmol/l) compared with only 8% of the afebrile controls. Plasma AVP concentrations were significantly higher in the febrile patients (median 2.92 pmol/l, range 1.0-23.25, n = 28) than in controls (median 1.67 pmol/l, range 0.57-6.0, n = 14) but there was no significant difference in cerebrospinal fluid AVP concentrations. There was no difference in plasma AVP concentrations between patients with meningitis and those with infections not involving the central nervous system. Careful attention should be paid to fluid and electrolyte balance in all children with acute infections.
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