Fever Phobia

In a famous study from 1980 titled “Fever phobia: misconceptions of parents about fevers“,  it was found that 85% of parents gave anti-fever medication (i.e. paracetamol, ibuprofen / acetaminophen) before their child’s temperature reached 38.9° C / 102° F and 68% sponged their child before the temperature reached 39.5° C / 103° F.  And because this was deemed to be excessive, the term “fever phobia” was coined.

Needless to say those ‘numbers’ probably sound incredibly reasonable to the vast majority of parents of children with febrile seizures, and accordingly the vast majority of parents of children with febrile seizures suffer from “fever phobia”.

Unfortunately though, when it comes to treating “fever phobia” in parents of children with febrile seizures very little has been agreed.  However, traditional phobia treatment involves either; exposure therapy, ‘talking’ treatments or medication.

  • Exposure therapy isn’t really an option because while “fever therapy” may be acceptable in some circles, to knowingly induce a fever in a child (with a history of febrile seizures) for the purpose of treating “fever phobia” in their parent(s) is unethical to say the least.  So that leaves us with ‘talking’ treatments and/or medication.
  • ‘Talking’ treatments involves working with a trained counsellor using techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
  • Medication is not usually recommended for treating phobias because talking therapies are normally successful.

For further information on treatment for phobias in general please see the NHS Choices page.