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Saudi Med J. 2001 Feb;22(2):124-8.

Physician's perceptions of fever in children. Facts and myths.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



To ascertain the knowledge and attitude of physicians, regarding fever in children.


A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 600 randomly selected pediatricians, family practice physicians, emergency medicine physicians and general practitioners, who practice in Saudi Arabia. Appropriateness of responses to questions was determined on the basis of current medical literature. A rectal temperature of 38.0 degrees C is generally accepted as indicative of fever in children.


Of the 600 physicians surveyed, 419 (70%) completed and returned the questionnaire; 17% of the physicians were consultants, 28% specialists and 55% general practitioners. Fifty-eight percent of the physicians had 10 years or more of experience. A rectal temperature of less than 38.0 degrees C was considered to indicate fever by 38% of physicians. Nearly 84% of physicians would initiate antipyretic therapy at a temperature of 38.5 degrees C or less and 56% cited a temperature of 40.0 degrees C or less to be dangerous. Only 5% believed that fever was not dangerous, while the remaining cited the principal danger of fever to be convulsions (69%), brain damage (35%), or death (8%). The responses to the main purpose of antipyretic treatment were to prevent convulsions (70%), to make the child comfortable (55%) and to prevent brain damage (29%). Approximately 53% of physicians reported that the most serious consequences of febrile convulsions were brain damage, learning disability, epilepsy, or death. Only 26% of physicians agreed that a sleeping child with fever should be left undisturbed. Approximately 25% advised inappropriate dosage or administration intervals of paracetamol. Almost all physicians recommended sponging or bathing to reduce fever. All respondents try to educate parents regarding fever and its management.


A significant number of the surveyed physicians have demonstrated a serious lack of knowledge of the nature, dangers and management of an extremely common health problem. Physicians differ substantially in their knowledge of, and attitude toward fever in children, which is perhaps attributed to their different background in medical education and clinical training.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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