Influenza is an important cause of acute respiratory illness in young children. Common complications include febrile convulsions, otitis media, bronchiolitis, and croup. In epidemic years attack rates among preschool children often exceed 40%. During these years children with influenza may account for up to 30% of the increase in antibiotic prescribing.1 Symptoms and signs of influenza in children are not specific and can mimic a range of other common respiratory viral pathogens. One quick way of reaching a precise diagnosis in primary care is to use a near patient test. Near patient testing for many conditions has expanded widely in primary care, though many tests have not been rigorously evaluated.2
Previous studies in children have compared near patient influenza tests with viral culture analysis using throat or nasal swabs.3 However, a nasopharyngeal aspirate is the best specimen for detecting influenza viruses, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is more sensitive than tissue culture when serology is the reference standard.4,5 We compared a near patient influenza test in children in primary care with laboratory based reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) testing of nasopharyngeal aspirates.