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Kiss and Tell Temperatures

You recall Mom’s decisive hand on your forehead checking for fever when you complained that you were too sick to go to school. It said, “I take good care of you” — and was eminently more agreeable than a thermometer you know where. Now, science has declared her touch accurate, as well as loving.

A recent study in two Chicago hospitals looked at mothers who brought their children to emergency rooms, and found that their touch-detection of fever  was on the money over 50% of the time. They also did well determining the absence of a fever. A similar study in Kentucky found nearly the same rate of parental accuracy.

“This confirms the wisdom of using a thermometer after feeling for a fever,” says Patrick Larsson, MD, chairman of the committee on pediatric emergency medicine for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It also reminds doctors that when parents call to report a fever, the parents’ judgment should be respected.”

A note of caution, however: Because infants under 2 months old may show very few outward signs of serious infections, their fevers are more significant. Therefore, anytime a new baby behaves oddly or doesn’t eat well, it’s essential to use a thermometer.

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