Fever: a concept analysis

Hilaire J Thompson
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2005, 51 (5): 484-92

AIM: The purpose of this paper is to critically analyse the current state of the science literature in order to develop an accurate conception of fever.

RATIONALE: The measurement of body temperature and treatment of fever have long been considered to be within the domain of nursing practice. What body temperature constitutes 'fever', however, is often not clear from nursing protocols or the literature.

METHODS: Literature for this concept analysis was obtained by computerized searches of PubMed, CINAHL and BIOSYS for the years 1980-2004. Additional sources were obtained after reviewing the bibliographies of the literature identified by the initial search. The Wilsonian method of concept analysis provided the framework for the analysis.

FINDINGS: Fever has characteristically been recognized as a cardinal sign of illness and has traditionally had negative connotations for patient well-being. Substantive advances over the past 20 years in immunology and neurophysiology have expanded understanding of the process of fever. This new knowledge has shifted the perception of fever as part of the acute-phase response to one of an adaptive nature. This knowledge has yet to be fully translated into changes in the fever management practices of nurses.

CONCLUSIONS: Consistent usage of terminology in relation to fever should lead to improved and evidence-based care for patients, and to fever management practices consistent with current research. It is important to use clear language about fever and hyperthermia in discussions and documentation between nurses and among disciplines. By creating clarity in our language, we may help to achieve praxis.

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