Clinical Tip: To get accurate temperature reports from parents, show them the money

March 1, 2006

To get accurate temperature reports from parents, show them the money

After hearing, for the umpteenth time, from a panicky parent that her (his) child had a temperature of "108," when it was actually "100.8° F," I devised a simple way to teach parents the difference. Using the monetary system, with which all consumers are familiar, I explain that a temperature of 100.3° F is the same as "100 dollars and 30 cents," whereas a temperature of 103° F is the same as "103 dollars." It's gratifying to see the light bulb go on when parents understand the difference and realize how easy it is to communicate the actual temperature they wish to report. (Later, to counteract fever phobia, I explain that fever is "good" and teach the parents how to recognize a sick child, regardless of temperature elevation.)

Carl S. Ingber, MDPebble Beach, Calif.