Parents of 202 young febrile children were surveyed about their knowledge, attitudes, and fears concerning fever and its treatment. Forty-eight percent of the parents considered temperatures less than 38.0°C to be "fevers", 43% felt that temperatures less than 40.0°C could be dangerous to a child, 21% favored treatment for fevers less than 38.0°C, and 15% believed that, left untreated, temperature could rise to 42.0°C or higher. Fifty-three percent advocated waking a febrile child at night to administer antipyretic therapy. Young age of the child was associated with a preference for use of acetaminophen over aspirin and, unexpectedly, with a higher parental threshold for consideration of fever. The higher their child's temperature at the time they were questioned, the higher the minimum temperature that parents considered a cause for concern. Surprisingly, higher socioeconomic status was not associated with a lesser degree of fever phobia. In fact, parents of higher socioeconomic status were more concerned about the risks of brain damage or seizures as sequelae of fever than were parents of lower socioeconomic status. It is concluded that undue fear and overly aggressive treatment of fever are epidemic among parents of infants and young children, even among the highly educated and well-to-do. Considerable effort will be required on the part of pediatricians and other child health workers to reeducate these parents about the definition, consequences, and appropriate treatment of fever.
- Received June 13, 1984.
- Accepted August 28, 1984.
- Copyright © 1985 by the American Academy of Pediatrics