Health Questions and Answers

Question: What about subjective fevers? Can mothers accurately judge whether their child has a fever without using a thermometer?

Answer:

Trust mothers–they know. Depending on the study, mothers are accurate in assessing the presence or absence of a fever 50% to 80% of the time. They seem to be more accurate at detecting when the child is febrile than they are at determining that the child is afebrile. Most pediatricians believe that fevers reported by mothers are probably real and need to be taken seriously. With a measured home fever, 84% of children spike a temperature within 24 hours, even when  afebrile in the emergency room.

Reference: Graneto JW, Soglin DF: Maternal screening of childhood fever by palpation. Pediatr Emerg Care 12:183-184, 1996.

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