Parents’ concerns and beliefs about temperature measurement in children: a qualitative study
Morris E., Glogowska M., Ismail FA., Edwards G., Fleming S., Wang K., Verbakel JY., Van den Bruel A., Hayward G.
© 2021, The Author(s). Background: Nearly 40% of parents with children aged 6 to 17 months consult a healthcare professional when their child has a high temperature. Clinical guidelines recommend temperature measurement in these children, but little is known about parents’ experiences of and beliefs about temperature measurement. This study aimed to explore parents’ concerns and beliefs about temperature measurement in children. Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted from May 2017 to June 2018 with 21 parents of children aged 4 months to 5.5 years, who were purposively sampled from the METRIC study (a method comparison study comparing non-contact infrared thermometers to axillary and tympanic thermometers in acutely ill children). Data analysis followed a thematic approach. Results: Parents described the importance of being able to detect fever, in particular high fevers, and how this then influenced their actions. The concept of “accuracy” was valued by parents but the aspects of performance which were felt to reflect accuracy varied. Parents used numerical values of temperature in four main ways: determining precision of the thermometer on repeat measures, detecting a “bad” fever, as an indication to administer antipyretics, or monitoring response to treatment. Family and social networks, the internet, and medical professionals and resources, were all key sources of advice for parents regarding fever, and guiding thermometer choice. Conclusions: Temperature measurement in children has diagnostic value but can either empower, or cause anxiety and practical challenges for parents. This represents an opportunity for both improved communication between parents and healthcare professionals, and technological development, to support parents to manage febrile illness with greater confidence in the home.