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Fever in children – a concept analysis


  • Edward Purssell PhD, RGN, RSCN

    Senior Lecturer, Corresponding author
    1. King's College London, London, UK
    • Correspondence: Edward Purssell, Senor Lecturer, King's College London, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA, UK. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7848 3021.


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Aims and objectives

To undertake a concept analysis to clarify the meaning of the term ‘fever’ in children and to identify models of fever-related belief that may help in understanding the response of parents and professionals to fever in children.


This concept analysis was undertaken because the approach to the treatment of fever varies widely and in particular that there is often a difference between what parents want for their children, official guidelines and what professionals do in practice.


Concept analysis.


The study used a modified evolutionary method of concept analysis. The analysis was based on data from medical, nursing, popular and biological literature and used an iterative process to clarify the term.


Fever has a number of distinct uses based on its meaning and history; these include its use to indicate an illness itself, as a beneficial symptom associated with disease, and a diagnostic sign. Three models of fever-related practice emerged from the analysis, these being a phobic-fearful approach that drives routine treatment, a scientific approach that sees fever as a potentially adaptive and beneficial response and a scientific but pragmatic approach that recognises potential benefit but results in treatment anyway. These different uses, which are often not clarified, go some way to explaining the different approaches to its treatment.


When parents, clinicians, physiologists and guideline writers discuss fever, they attribute different meanings to it, which may go some way to explaining the dissonance between theory and practice. In the absence of new knowledge, the emphasis of practitioners should therefore be on their safe use.

Relevance to practice

When discussing the meaning and treatment of fever, it is important to understand what is meant in different circumstances. The models of fever-related beliefs outlined here may go some way to helping this process.

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