Survey Says Parents Over Treat Harmless Fevers in Kids

Results of a Survey on Fevers that was reported in a February 6, 2002 release from Reuters Health showed that parents often over react by treating fevers in children earlier than necessary. The survey compared attitudes of doctors, nurses and parents towards treating fevers in children. The results revealed that parents tend to treat high temperatures much more aggressively than health professionals do.

Israeli researchers conducted their survey from a questionnaire sent to more than 2,000 parents, doctors and nurses regarding fevers in children older than 3 months. For the purposes of this study 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, dosages 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 the survey results in the January 2002 issue of Patient Education and Counseling. The results showed that only 43% of parents knew that a fever below 100.4 degrees can be beneficial to a child. This was in contrast to 86% of the doctors and 64% of the nurses who responded to the survey. The survey also showed that the majority of parents said they would treat a fever below 100.4 even if the child has no other symptoms, something with which only 11% of doctors said they would do.

"A fever can actually help sick children", explained Dr. Donna D'Alessandro from the department of pediatrics at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "The body, basically, is trying to do the right thing," she said. "Bugs like to live at body temperature. So if you raise the temperature, you kill them off." Twenty percent of parents responding to the study said the only reason they treat their child's fever is to reduce the risk of seizure associated with high temperatures. Dr. D'Alessandro noted that this is a concern but that it is only a risk in children with temperatures around 108 degrees. She also states that parents need to look beyond the fever, "Well, what's really causing the fever? It's not the fever itself, it's the underlying cause that's the problem."