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Thermal balance and metabolic rate during upper respiratory tract infection in infants.
  1. P J Fleming,
  2. T Howell,
  3. M Clements,
  4. J Lucas
  1. Institute of Child Health, Bristol.


    Sequential recordings were made in the first five months after birth of metabolic rate, environmental temperature, and body temperature during sleep at home in 17 infants, each with an older sibling. Further recordings were made whenever an older sibling developed an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), again four to six days later, and again two weeks later, aiming to achieve recordings before, during, and after an URTI in the infant. The temperature of the room and wrapping of the infant were determined according to their usual practice by the parents. Parents added appropriate wrapping to achieve thermal neutrality based on our calculated values and the measured oxygen consumption. In five of the six infants who developed an URTI in the first three months after birth there was no change or a decrease in metabolic rate at the time of the infection; for infants older than 3 months the metabolic rate increased in three of the five episodes recorded. Peripheral skin temperature decreased at the time of URTI at all ages, though in the older infants it usually increased in parallel with rectal temperature during the latter part of the night, when pyrexia was most common. Infants thus respond to URTI by heat conservation. In the younger infants the lower metabolic rate and the further decrease in this rate with URTI means that fever is rare, and their temperature may decrease on infection. In the older infants the increase in metabolic rate (from an already higher baseline) may result in fever. These differences may contribute to the increased vulnerability of the older infants to heat stress, particularly at the time of acute viral infections.

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