Fever is a common presenting symptom for children accounting for over 20% of visits to the emergency department (ED). The symptom of fever in children has been shown to create undue anxiety amongst caregivers. The purpose of this study was to evaluate caregivers’ detection and management of pediatric fevers to identify potential knowledge gaps in our patient population.
Caregivers of children aged 3 months to 12 years presenting to an urban, Level I trauma center with various complaints (not limited to fever) were surveyed using an 11-question paper questionnaire. All data was collected anonymously, then correlated and analyzed using Microsoft Excel (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA). The questionnaire elicited information regarding home detection, management, timeframe and location to seek care, and caregiver concerns surrounding fever.
A total of 276 caregiver responses were collected. Overall, 90.9% of subjects had a thermometer at home but the method of taking a temperature ranged. In regards to the caregivers’ definition of fever, 44.4% defined a fever to be at or above 38℃ when measured. When seeking care for a fever, 41% waited less than 24 hours with only 12% waiting more than 48 hours. Many caregivers utilized their pediatrician (45.3%) for fever evaluation, but a large group utilized the ED (26.8%). Dehydration was their most common concern, with seizures, worsening infection, brain damage, and death as the additional reported fears.
Our study found caregiver knowledge gaps in the identification of fever as well as specific concerns that fever would lead to dehydration and severe infection. These concerns lead to seeking care very early in a child's illness in both the emergency department and pediatrician's office. This presents an opportunity for further caregiver education to decrease or alter the timing or location of care sought in a pediatric febrile illness.
Cureus (2021) 13(3):e14222
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