Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children below 5 years of age.
This multisite prospective observational study was carried out in the Pediatrics’ out-patient departments of 5 medical colleges across India with an objective to assess the feasibility of establishing Acute Respiratory Infection Treatment Unit (ATU) in urban medical college hospitals. ATU (staffed with a nurse and a medical officer) was established in the out-patient areas at study sites. Children, aged 2-59 months, with cough and/ breathing difficulty for < 14 days were screened by study nurse in the ATU for pneumonia, severe pneumonia or no pneumonia. Diagnosis was verified by study doctor. Children were managed as per the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The key outcomes were successful establishment of ATUs, antibiotic usage, treatment outcomes.
ATUs were successfully established at the 5 study sites. Of 18,159 under-five children screened, 7026 (39%) children were assessed to have ARI. Using the WHO criteria, 938 were diagnosed as pneumonia (13.4%) and of these, 347 (36.9%) had severe pneumonia. Ambulatory home-based management was done in 6341 (90%) children with ARI; of these, 16 (0.25%) required admission because of non-response or deterioration on follow-up. Case-fatality rate in severe pneumonia was 2%. Nearly 12% of children with ‘no pneumonia’ received antibiotics.
Setting up of ATUs dedicated to management of ARI in children was feasible in urban medical colleges. The observed case fatality, and rate of unnecessary use of antibiotics were lower than that reported in literature.

© 2022. The Author(s).