Background: Fever is the most common complaint of children seen in a Pediatric Emergency Department (PED). Since pediatric emergency nurses commonly educate parents on fever management, this study sought to examine their knowledge base regarding fever in children.
Methods: Through convenience sampling, pediatric emergency registered nurses working at one of four PEDs were surveyed using a self-administered questionnaire containing 10 open-ended questions pertaining to fever in children.
Results: Eighty-eight pediatric emergency registered nurses (median experience 8.0 years, range 3 months to 28 years) were surveyed. The median temperature considered by pediatric emergency nurses to be a fever was 38.0 degrees C (100.4 degrees F) with a range of 37.2 degrees C (99.0 degrees F) to 38.9 degrees C (102.0 degrees F), while the median temperature considered to be dangerous to a child was 40.6 degrees C (105.0 degrees F) with a range of 38.0 degrees C (100.4 degrees F) to 41.8 degrees C (107.0 degrees F). Eleven percent was not sure what temperature constituted a fever while 31% was not sure what temperature would be dangerous to a child. Fifty-seven percent considered seizures the primary danger to a febrile child while 29% stated permanent brain injury or death could occur from a high fever. Sixty percent chose acetaminophen as first line treatment while 7% stated alcohol or tepid water baths were also acceptable treatment options. Thirty-eight percent stated that a different medication should be added if a child was still febrile 1 hour after initial treatment while 31% would not use additional medication. Eighteen percent stated it was dangerous for a child to leave the PED if still febrile.
Conclusion: Fever phobia and inconsistent treatment approaches occur among experienced pediatric emergency registered nurses. These phobias and inconsistencies subsequently could be conveyed to parents. In order to assure accurate parental education, PEDs should educate their medical team regarding the management of fever in children.