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Children are reliable reporters of common symptoms: results from a self-reported symptom diary for primary school children

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Abstract Background: 

Collecting information on subjective symptoms in children by parental reports or physician’s interview is indirect and not suited for prospective data collection over extended time periods. Aim: 

To examine the reliability of a diary for symptom self-reports by primary school children. Methods: 

Children aged 7–8 or 11–12 were recruited from primary school and a paediatric outpatient department. A picture-based symptom diary was completed individually. Children were asked about presence of 10 specified subjective symptoms for five time periods covering the previous 24 h. The diary was completed twice for test–retest and answers were compared with semi structured physician’s interviews. Results: 

Test–retest reliability for reporting a symptom during the previous 24 h gave reliable kappa values of 0.64–0.91. Comparison with physician’s interview gave kappas of 0.18–0.68. Requiring correct time of day for each symptom reduced reliability and validity. Kappa values for test–retest and child-physician agreement for the individual symptoms were respectively: sneezing, 0.80 and 0.30; sore throat, 0.89, 0.30; tiredness, 0.88, 0.65; headache, 0.64, 0.66; runny nose, 0.91, 0.68; sore eyes, 0.67, 0.18; cough, 0.73, 0.58; stomach ache, 0.69, 0.45. Conclusion: 

Our symptom diary gives reliable self-report data from primary school children. It may be used for prospective symptom monitoring.
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Keywords: Headache diary; Reliability; Self-report; Symptom questionnaire

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: .Department of Neurology, Akershus University Hospital, Oslo, Norway 2: .Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway 3: .Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway

Publication date: 01 July 2010

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