Validity and accuracy of maternal tactile assessment for fever in under-five children in North Central Nigeria: a cross-sectional study.

Abdulkadir, Mohammed Baba ; Johnson, 'WBR ; Ibraheem, R.M (2014-10)


Objectives This study seeks to determine not only the reliability of parental touch in detecting fever as compared to rectal thermometry in under-five children, but also the sociodemographic factors that may predict its reliability. Setting The study was carried out in the Emergency Paediatric Unit of a tertiary hospital in North Central Nigeria. Participants 409 children aged less than 5 years with a history of fever in the 48 h prior to presentation and their mothers were recruited consecutively. All the children recruited completed the study. Children with clinical parameters suggestive of shock, and those who were too ill, were excluded from the study. Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcome was the proportion of mothers who could accurately predict if their child was febrile or not (defined by rectal temperature) using tactile assessment only. Secondary outcomes were the validity and accuracy of touch in detecting fever and factors related to its accuracy. Results About 85% of the children were febrile using rectal thermometry. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive and negative predictive values for touch as a screening tool were 63%, 54%, 88.3% and 21%, respectively. High maternal socioeconomic status and low maternal age influenced positively the accuracy of touch in correctly determining the presence or absence of fever. Conclusions This study has shown that tactile assessment of temperature is not reliable and that absence of fever in a previously febrile child should be confirmed by objective methods of temperature measurement.