Fever is a common complaint in children and is the most common reason for parents to bring their children to the emergency department. It is a stressful event for parents and caregivers, at least in part because of unrealistic concerns regarding the consequences of fever. Fever phobia is term that was first used in the early 1980s to describe the unrealistic fear of fever expressed by parents. Since then, numerous guidelines have been published stating that fever is not, in itself dangerous. However, this fear still exists and it causes anxiety to parents.
Unfortunately, there is also a misconception among paediatricians about fever (High temperature can cause death and brain damage; fever itself could be dangerous for a child with seizures).
Although paediatricians should serve to eliminate this fear, they may be contributing to fever phobia by adopting the following practices:
1. Prescribing antipyretics for children who are only mildly febrile.
2. Recommending the use of alternating antipyretics.
Fever is usually associated with self-limiting infections. However, in a small number of cases it can be a sign of more serious underlying condition. Paediatrician’s role is to spot the child with a serious disease and to ensure that appropriate treatment is instigated. For the rest of the children with fever, the paediatrician should explain to parents that the fever is normal part of the body response to fight the infection. Finally, the paediatrician needs to explain to parents that the objective of antipyretic treatment is not euthermia but to make the child feel comfortable.
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