Introduction: Management of pediatric fever is controversial. Although many nursing texts advocate aggressive fever management, research provides evidence that fever is a normal physiologic process with beneficial effects. We sought to describe emergency nurses' pediatric fever management practices, their rationales for practice, and their practice consistency.
Methods: A researcher-developed tool was mailed to a systematic random sample of approximately 5% of ENA members. Surveys were mailed to 1136 nurses nationally; 731 surveys were returned (64% response rate).
Results: Temperature at which nurses initiate fever interventions varied from 37.8 degrees C (100 degrees F) to 40.6 degrees C (105 degrees F). Most frequently identified rationales for intervention were prevention of fever increase (83.3%), fever reduction (76.9%), comfort (74.7%), and seizure prevention (65.3%). Most nurses (79.8%) employ tepid sponging to reduce fever; 31% sponge routinely. Nurses reported sponging for temperatures higher than 38.9 degrees C (102 degrees F) to 40.6 degrees C (105 degrees F). Rationales for sponging included seizure prevention (58%), rapid cooling (56.8%), and treatment of fevers unresponsive to antipyretics (45.6%). Factors influencing rationales for practice included departmental standards of care (67.2%), physician practices (65.8%), and common sense (64.2%).
Discussion: The results of this nationwide survey demonstrate that fever management practices vary. ED nurses are practicing in a manner consistent with that advocated in many nursing texts but not necessarily the research literature. We believe that clinical trials of commonly used fever treatments are indicated. Standards of care could then be revised to reflect the research literature.