A systematic approach for studying the signs and symptoms of fever in adult patients: the fever assessment tool (FAST)

Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2017 Apr 27;15(1):84. doi: 10.1186/s12955-017-0644-6.


Background: Although body temperature is one of four key vital signs routinely monitored and treated in clinical practice, relatively little is known about the symptoms associated with febrile states. The purpose of this study was to assess the validity, reliability and feasibility of the Fever Assessment Tool (FAST) in an acute care research setting.

Methods: Qualitative: To assess content validity and finalize the FAST instrument, 12 adults from an inpatient medical-surgical unit at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center participated in cognitive interviews within approximately 12 h of a febrile state (tympanic temperature ≥ 38° Celsius). Quantitative: To test reliability, validity and feasibility, 56 new adult inpatients completed the 21-item FAST.

Results: The cognitive interviews clarified and validated the content of the final 21-item FAST. Fifty-six patients completed the FAST from two to 133 times during routine vital sign assessment, yielding 1,699 temperature time points. Thirty-four percent of the patients (N = 19) experienced fever at one or more time points, with a total of 125 febrile time points. Kuder-Richardson 20 (KR-20) reliability of the FAST was 0.70. Four nonspecific symptom categories, Tired or Run-Down (12), Sleepy (13), Weak or Lacking Energy (11), and Thirsty (9) were among the most frequently reported symptoms in all participants. Using Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE), the odds of reporting eight symptoms, Warm (4), Sweating (5), Thirsty (9), General Body Aches (10), Weak or Lacking Energy (11), Tired or Run Down (12) and Difficulty Breathing (17), were increased when patients had a fever (Fever Now), compared to the two other subgroups-patients who had a fever, but not at that particular time point, (Fever Not Now) and patients who never had a fever (Fever Never). Many, but not all, of the comparisons were significant in both groups.

Conclusion: Results suggest the FAST is reliable, valid and easy to administer. In addition to symptoms usually associated with fever (e.g. feeling warm), symptoms such as Difficulty Breathing (17) were identified with fever. Further study in a larger, more diverse patient population is warranted.

Trial registration: Clinical Trials Number: NCT01287143 (January 2011).

Keywords: Fever Assessment Tool (FAST); Fever signs; Fever symptoms.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis*
  • Fever / etiology
  • Fever / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Symptom Assessment / instrumentation*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01287143