Parents ‘lack knowledge’ about what constitutes a fever

Most parents lack sufficient knowledge about what constitutes a fever in young children, research has found.

The study, by a team of researchers attached to UCC and Cork Mercy University Hospital expressed concern the knowledge of so many adults about correctly identifying fever was “deficient.”

The results of the study, which were published in the medical journal BMJ Open, reveal almost two-thirds of parents identified fever at temperatures that were either above or below the recognised fever level of 38C. Their answers ranged from 36C to in excess of 40C.

The research team said pressure on GPs’ surgeries could be reduced through the provision of information on fever to parents that was accessible, understandable and concise.

“It may alleviate unnecessary presentations at healthcare facilities for assessment and treatment,” said one of the study’s authors, Maria Kelly, a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at UCC.

Such information should also reduce the overuse of medication.

“Empowering parents to take responsibility for effective care of their children should be a key public health issue,” said Dr Kelly.

On a positive note, it was found parents had good knowledge about the purpose and appropriate uses of antibiotics. The study aimed to establish parental knowledge, attitudes and beliefs with regard to fever in children under five years.

The research included a survey of more than 120 parents of children at eight primary schools in Cork and another 1,000 who responded to an online questionnaire hosted on a number of different websites.

Dr Kelly said fever on its own did not require treatment, with guidelines recommending that medicines to reduce fever should only be used when a child is also distressed or in pain.

Despite guidance to the contrary, many parents often misuse such medicines by either overdosing or underdosing or routinely alternating between different medicines.

The research found that that nearly two-thirds of all parents alternated between two fever-reducing medicines when managing a child’s fever.

“These levels of misinformation and inappropriate management remain a primary concern to those attempting to improve child health and well-being and decrease unnecessary burden on healthcare services,” said Dr Kelly.

Seven out of 10 parents admitted having visited their GP because their child had a fever.

More than half of all parents had gone to a doctor at an out-of-hours practice due to a fever with a child.

A third of parents who had seen two different doctors with a child with a fever reported having received conflicting information.

One in ten parents opted to treat fever with suppositories compared to the vast majority who used liquid or oral forms of medication.

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