Parental and medical knowledge and management of fever in Italian pre-school children

BMC Pediatr. 2012 Jul 13;12:97. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-12-97.


Background: Guidelines for the management of fever in children have been recently published, however "fever phobia" is still spreading. To provide information which may sustain educational interventions tailored to our population we investigated the parental and medical knowledge and management of fever in preschool children.

Methods: A questionnaire was administered to a convenient sample of Italian parents and paediatricians. The questionnaire elicited information about definition and cause of fever, concerns about fever, method of temperature measurement, and treatment modalities.

Results: Overall, 388 parents and 480 paediatricians were interviewed. All the parents believed that fever could cause at least one harmful effect and 89.9% (n = 349) believed that, if left untreated, it can cause brain damage or seizures. Parents used multiple resources to obtain information about fever but 67.8% (n = 264) considered paediatricians as their primary resource. Several wrong behaviours were found in the same proportions among parents and paediatricians: 78.5% of paediatricians (n = 377) and 77.8% of parents (n = 302) used physical method to reduce fever (P = 0.867); 27.0% of paediatricians (n = 103) and 21.4% (n = 83) of parents declared to alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen (P = 0.953). Differently, 73.1% (n = 351) of paediatricians preferred oral to rectal administration of antipyretics compared to 48.7% (n = 190) of parents (P < 0.0001). Worrisomely, 1.4% of paediatricians and 1.2% of parents declared to use acetylsalicylic acid or steroids as second-choice antipyretics (P = 0.937) and 6.7% (n = 26) of parents declared to use table- or teaspoons for determining the dose of drug.

Conclusions: Paediatricians' attitudes greatly influence the parental behaviours and beliefs. Implementation of educational programs regarding the management of the febrile child are needed in our setting.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipyretics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fever / complications
  • Fever / diagnosis
  • Fever / therapy*
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pediatrics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Antipyretics