- NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- A survey comparing attitudes of doctors, nurses and parents towards
treating fevers in children reveals that parents tend to treat high
much more aggressively than health professionals do.
- A low fever can actually benefit a sick child, and the
researchers attributed parental tendencies to "fever phobia"--a
fear that fever is harmful--which they say originated after the
of anti-fever drugs like Tylenol.
- A group of Israeli researchers obtained their results
from a questionnaire sent to more than 2,000 parents, doctors and nurses
regarding fevers in children older than 3 months. The researchers defined
fever as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal body temperature, which is
around 98.6 degrees. The survey included questions on risks of fever,
of anti-fever drugs and when children should be treated.
- Dr. Michael Sarrell and colleagues from the IPROS Network
of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association in Tel Aviv published their
survey results in the January issue of Patient Education and
- The investigators found that only 43% of parents knew
that a fever below 100.4 degrees can be beneficial to a child, in contrast
to 86% of the doctors and 64% of the nurses who responded to the survey.
The majority of parents also said they would treat a fever below 100.4
even if the child has no other symptoms, something with which only 11%
of doctors agreed.
- Dr. Donna D'Alessandro from the department of pediatrics
at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, who reviewed the paper
for Reuters Health, said these results are consistent with what she sees
in her practice. "It seems to me there is a general feeling that many,
many parents are worried about fevers," she said.
- A fever can actually help sick children, she explained.
"The body, basically, is trying to do the right thing," she said.
"Bugs like to live at body temperature. So if you raise the
you kill them off." And contrary to what parents may believe, she
pointed out, the body can function very efficiently at temperatures as
high as 100.5 degrees.
- D'Alessandro added that some parents may overtreat fever
because they mistake it for a problem, and not just a symptom.
- Twenty percent of parents responding to the study
reported the only reason they treat their child's fever is to reduce the
risk of seizure associated with high temperatures, called febrile seizure.
D'Alessandro agreed that febrile seizures are possible, but only in
with temperatures around 108 degrees. And at that point, she said, parents
should be concerned about more than just the child's fever.
- "Well, what's really causing the fever? It's not
the fever itself, it's the underlying cause that's the problem," she
- As a general rule, D'Alessandro said she tends to treat
fevers when the high temperature makes the child uncomfortable and thus
less likely to drink often and eat.
- In their report, Sarrell and colleagues included a series
of recommendations on how to improve fever management in children, which
included educating parents and the public, and adopting standardized
for when and how to treat fevers. D'Alessandro agreed with this idea, but
was unsure whether these initiatives were possible.
- "The question is, who's going to spend the money
for all of this? Is this significant enough a problem to go after spending
a large amount of money?" she asked.
- SOURCE: Patient Education
and Counseling 2002;46:61-65.
- Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights