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Beyond Intuition: Understanding Patient Experiences of Fever

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 — Poster Session II

Noon – 2:00 p.m

Natcher Conference Center, Building 45




  • C. Peng
  • N.J. Ames
  • A. Callahan
  • J. Powers
  • N.K. Leidy
  • C. Miller-Davis
  • A. Rosenberg
  • M. VanRaden
  • G. Wallen


Purpose: Fever is an important sign of inflammation recognized by health care practitioners and caregivers. However, few empirical data obtained directly from patients exist to support many of the longstanding assumptions about patient experiences of fever. Many of the literature-cited signs and symptoms of fever have foundations that are neither accurate nor complete. However, they often represent a major justification for antipyretic administration. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 28 inpatients who had a recorded temperature of ≥ 38°C within 12 hours of the interview. Patients were asked to describe their fever experience. Thematic analyses were conducted by three independent research team members and the data were verified through two rounds of consensus building. Results: Eleven themes representing the signs and symptoms of fever emerged. The patients reported experiences of feeling cold, weakness, warmth, sweating, non-specific bodily sensations, GI symptoms, headaches, emotional changes, achiness, respiratory symptoms and vivid dreams/hallucinations. Conclusions: Our data confirm longstanding signs and symptoms of fever, but also suggest new symptoms and a level of variability and complexity not captured by the existing fever literature. Greater knowledge of fevers will guide more accurate assessments of the impact of antipyretic treatment on patient symptoms in this common condition.

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