Background: Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are common in children with febrile illness visiting the general practitioner (GP) or emergency department. We studied the management of children with fever and RTI at 3 different levels of healthcare in The Netherlands, focusing on antibiotic prescription. Methods: This prospective observational study is part of the Management and Outcome of Febrile children in Europe study. Data were used from face-to-face patient contacts of children with febrile illness in three healthcare settings in Nijmegen, The Netherlands during 2017. These settings were primary (GP), secondary (general hospital) and tertiary care (university hospital). Results: Of 892 cases with RTI without complex comorbidities, overall antibiotic prescription rates were 29% with no differences between the 3 levels of healthcare, leading to an absolute number of 5031 prescriptions per 100,000 children per year in primary care compared with 146 in secondary and tertiary care combined. The prescription rate in otitis media was similar in all levels: 60%. In cases with lower RTI who received nebulizations prescription rates varied between 19% and 55%. Conclusions: Antibiotic prescription rates for RTIs in children were comparable between the 3 levels of healthcare, thus leading to a majority of antibiotics being prescribed in primary care. Relatively high prescription rates for all foci of RTIs were found, which was not in agreement with the national guidelines. Antibiotic stewardship needs improvement at all 3 levels of healthcare. Guidelines to prescribe small spectrum antibiotics for RTIs need to be better implemented in hospital care settings.
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