A fever is an increase in the body's temperature above normal. This study examined how US pediatricians perceive and manage fever generally versus fever occurring after vaccination in infants up to six months of age.
A web-based survey of 400 US pediatricians subscribing to the Physician Desk Reference was conducted in December 2008. Data were collected on the respondents' socio-demographics, number of years in practice, type of practice, their definition of fever severity in infants, and their recommendations for managing fever. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to estimate the odds of a pediatrician recommending an emergency room visit (ER) or a hospital admission, office visits, or other treatment option, as a function of infant's age, temperature, whether the infant has recently received a vaccine, and whether the fever was reported during or after office hours, adjusting for practice type and socio-demographic variables.
On average, the 400 responding pediatricians' (64% were female, average age of 49 years, years in practice = 20 years) threshold for extremely serious fever was ≥39.5°C and ≥ 40.0°C for infants 0-2 month and >2-6 month of age respectively. Infants were more likely to be referred to an ER or hospital admission if they were ≤ 2 months of age (Odds Ratio [OR], 29.13; 95% Confidence interval [95% CI], 23.69-35.82) or >2-4 months old (OR 3.37; 95% CI 2.99-3.81) versus > 4 to 6 months old or if they had a temperature ≥ 40.0°C (OR 21.06; 95% CI 17.20-25.79) versus a temperature of 38.0-38.5°C. Fever after vaccination (OR 0.29; 95% CI 0.25-0.33) or reported during office hours (OR 0.17; 95% CI 0.15-0.20) were less likely to result in referral to ER or hospital admission.
Within this sample of US pediatricians, perception of the severity of fever in infants, as well as the response to infant fever are likely to depend on the infant's age. Recommendations for the management of fever in infants are likely to depend on fever severity level, the infant age, timing in relation to recent vaccination, and the time of day fever is reported. Our results indicate that US pediatricians are more concerned about general fever than fever following vaccination.