Does fever phobia cross borders? The case of Japan


  • Departments and institutions in which the work was performed

  • Department of Pediatrics, Juntendo University Nerima Hospital, Takanodai 3–1-10, Nerima-ku, Tokyo, Japan.

  • Previous presentation of the work

  • Presented at the 67th annual meeting of the Japanese Society of Public Health (November 2008).

Rie Sakai, MD, Department of Public Health, Juntendo University School of Medicine, 2-1-1 Hongo Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan. Email:


Background:  Undue parental fear of fever in children was termed “fever phobia” by Schmitt following a survey in the USA in 1980. In 2000, Crocetti et al. conducted the same survey and concluded that fever phobia existed even 20 years later. In this study, we explore differences in fever phobia between these two US populations and a Japanese sample, and determine whether parents of a single child or those whose child was previously hospitalized or had a febrile seizure report greater anxiety about fever.

Methods:  A questionnaire was distributed to parents of children who visited a pediatric outpatient clinic in Juntendo University Nerima Hospital between 19 and 30 November 2007.

Results:  Data was obtained from 211 parents who agreed to participate in the study. Compared with much smaller proportions reported in the two previous studies, 62% of caregivers considered a temperature below 37.8°C to be a fever, although less than half of parents reported that they were “very worried” about fever. Over 90% identified doctors and nurses as their primary information source. In contrast to 7% of parents in the US studies, almost no parents reported that temperatures could rise to or above 43.3°C if fever was left untreated; however, 63% of parents stated that they would visit a hospital.

Conclusions:  Fever phobia exists on both sides of the border, and while caregivers in Japan appear to have a more accurate understanding of fever, they are more likely to rely on health-care professionals to manage the condition.