A third of children under six who go to hospital with a fever could instead possibly be treated by their GPs, according to new Australian research.
Analysis of hospital emergency department admissions showed in most of these cases, kids were simply given fluids to drink and paracetamol to reduce fever.
Researchers at the University of Tasmania say educating parents about managing fever, and in particular managing dehydration, may reduce the overall burden on the health system.
“Parents’ fear of fever, or ‘fever phobia’, has been well documented, both nationally and internationally, over the past three decades,” they wrote in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
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“It has been reported that many parents are unable to determine what a normal temperature for their child is and are excessively concerned about the harm that they expect to be associated with fever, such as brain damage and seizures.”
To investigate the impact of ‘fever phobia’ on the health-care system, the researchers looked at all patient admissions to the Royal Hobart Hospital emergency department between January 2013 and December 2015.
In total, there were 165,806 emergency presentations, with children under the age of six accounting for 17 per cent all emergency presentations.
Of these children, there were 459 presentations (0.3 per cent) to the ED with a primary diagnosis description of ‘unspecified fever’.
Further analysis showed of all presentations, 141 (30.7 per cent) were classified as potentially avoidable, “GP-type presentations” as defined by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
In most (88.8 per cent) of these cases, the only therapy administered in the ED was fever-alleviating oral medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol and/or oral fluids.
The researchers say further investigation is needed to determine whether these could be managed in the primary care setting.
Fever NOT an emergency
Australian paediatric doctor, Dr. Nelu, also shares that a fever is NOT an emergency.
‘Fever itself is not an emergency! Your child can have a fever of 40C with a simple virus,’ Dr. Nelu said.
‘It is the cause of the fever that is more important than the actual number itself.
‘Fever is 38C or above. And any fever in a baby less than three months should be seen by a doctor fairly urgently.’
Dr. Nelu said doctors should be seen if children have a fever for more than two days (if there are no other viral symptoms), if irritability doesn’t improve with medications, if they are having less than half normal fluids or if they have vomiting and diarrhoea that doesn’t improve.
‘See a doctor urgently if your child has a fever and the rash has dark red or purple spots that don’t disappear when you push it, is complaining of a headache and is not moving their neck as much or having trouble looking at lights or is so lethargic they are having trouble waking up,’ she said.
Heavy breathing (sucking in at the throat, between the ribs, underneath their ribs or using their stomach to breathe rapidly) is also a sign to see a doctor urgently.
Please NEVER doubt your instincts if you think something is wrong!
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