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Temperature and Meningitis

75% of parents are not confident about diagnosing illness in their own children.

Nearly half of the parents who responded in a new survey are not aware of the normal body temperature range of babies and toddlers, and worryingly two thirds do not even know that critical body temperature varies between babies, toddlers and older children.

One of the key indicators of meningitis and many other childhood illnesses is a raised temperature, yet more than a third of parents surveyed admit they are not confident about taking their child's temperature.

The survey also highlighted that 33% of parents use devices to measure temperatures that most health professionals think are inaccurate, increasing the risk of incorrectly diagnosing illness in their children. The survey, commissioned by Brother Max and supported by Meningitis Research Foundation, has been released to coincide with this year's Meningitis Awareness Week, 20-26th September 2010.

More than 1,500 UK parents and grandparents completed the survey, which showed that there is a lot of confusion about the correct diagnosis of potentially serious illnesses such as meningitis.

TV medic Dr Hilary Jones, who is a patron of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said, 'Babies, toddlers and children become poorly all the time and sometimes it is very difficult for any concerned parent to establish just how sick their child really is. Is it merely a mild viral illness or could they be showing the first signs of an ear or chest infection, tonsillitis or even meningitis? The symptoms of meningitis can also vary from baby to child and sometimes appear flu-like, such as vomiting and drowsiness'.

With any illness, quick thinking and speedy reaction is key but the survey showed that parents are simply not confident enough, especially when identifying what the normal temperature range for a healthy child should be. Therefore more needs to be done to communicate correct information from early stages of child development.

Information on meningitis and septicaemia is also available on the Foundation's world-renowned website www.meningitis.org.

September 2010

The Survey Results:
1) 76% are not completely confident at diagnosing illness with their children
2) 39% are not entirely confident at taking a child's temperature
3) Yet 77% identified fever as one of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia
4) 49% are unsure or do not know that body temperature differs between children and adults
5) 64% do not know that critical body temperature varies between babies, toddlers and older children
6) 46% are not aware of the correct body temperature ranges for babies and toddlers
7) 20% are not aware what the optimum temperature a nursery should be to prevent infant cot death syndrome
8) 30% do not know the maximum body temperature at which they should consult a doctor (among children older than 6 months but younger than 2 years)
9) Over 90% own and use at least one thermometer, of which:
- 46% use a digital ear thermometer, which most GP's consider to be the most accurate, safe and easy method of taking a child or baby's temperature
- However 33% solely use and rely on devices that most GP's consider to give inaccurate or inappropriate / unreliable readings

Meningitis Research Foundation operates a freefone 24 hour helpline – 080 8800 3344 – providing information on meningitis and septicaemia to the general public and health professionals.
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