Occult means hidden. Bacteremia is germs (bacteria) in the blood. So occult bacteremia is when bacteria are in the blood but haven't yet caused illness or symptoms other than a fever. Because the bacteria haven't yet caused sickness, the bacteremia is "hidden."
Occult bacteremia happens in babies and children under 3 years of age. After that age, bacteremia always causes symptoms.
With occult bacteremia, your baby or child has a fever but otherwise looks healthy
Doctors do blood tests to find occult bacteremia
Vaccines (shots that healthy children need to help protect them from many infections) also help prevent occult bacteremia
Doctors treat occult bacteremia with antibiotics
Without treatment, occult bacteremia may develop into a serious illness
To find occult bacteremia, doctors do:
Doctors may do other tests to look for a bacterial or viral infection, such as:
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) where a doctor uses a needle to get a sample of spinal fluid from around the spinal cord
Swab from the nose to look for a viral infection
The age of the child is important. Babies under the age of 3 months may need more tests and even to stay in the hospital during testing. Doctors can't always tell just by looking at very young babies whether they have occult bacteremia or a serious bacterial infection.
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