Minimum dose for children with fever, parents advised
Press release issued: 3 July 2006
Parents should be advised to use the minimum dose necessary when treating a child with fever, say researchers from the University of Bristol in the British Medical Journal.
Parents should be advised to use the minimum dose necessary when treating a child with fever, say researchers from the University of Bristol in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Fever is common in children and can often cause distress, parental anxiety, and – in some parents – “fever phobia” (undue fear of the effects of fever ).
Non-drug treatments include loosening clothing, reducing the ambient temperature, and encouraging the child to take fluids. The drug options are paracetamol and ibuprofen, and parents commonly give both drugs to a child with fever.
But should these drugs be used together, or alternately? For which children, and at what dose and frequency? Advice is inconsistent, leading to confusion and frustration among parents, nurses, and doctors.
To try to answer these questions, researchers at Bristol University, the University of West of England and the University of Bath searched the scientific literature, but found very little evidence to support prescribing paracetamol and ibuprofen in combination or alternately.
They also found other important gaps in the evidence, including limited safety data and no clear definition of what is a clinically important temperature difference after treatment.
Until such evidence is available, the role of combined anti-fever drugs is uncertain, they warn.
Dr Alastair Hay, a GP in Bristol and the lead researcher at the University of Bristol said: “This paper highlights the need for more research to help parents, nurses and doctors decide whether two medicines are really better than one. This is exactly what the PITCH fever study, currently being conducted in the Bristol area is doing. If you are the parent of a child aged between 6 months and under 5 years living in the Bristol area and you would like to know more or if your child develops a fever, please contact the study team on 0117 331 0811.”
Given that the absence of evidence from trials is at odds with strongly held parental beliefs in many cases, and given the desire among parents and clinicians to do something when faced with febrile children, it seems churlish to conclude that combined treatment should be withheld from all children, say the authors.
But parents should be advised to use the minimum treatment necessary, they conclude.