Open Access Open Badges Research article

Fearful or functional - a cross-sectional survey of the concepts of childhood fever among German and Turkish mothers in Germany

Thorsten Langer12*, Miriam Pfeifer1, Aynur Soenmez13, Bilge Tarhan1, Elke Jeschke4 and Thomas Ostermann5

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and Family Medicine, Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany

2 Children's Hospital, HELIOS Klinikum, Wuppertal, Germany

3 Institute of Nursing Science, Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany

4 Havelhoehe Research Institute, Berlin, Germany

5 Center for Integrative Medicine, Witten/Herdecke University, Herdecke, Germany

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-41

Published: 23 May 2011



Fever is one of the most common presenting complaints in paediatrics and general practice. In the majority of cases nothing harmful is diagnosed. However, the subjective meaning of fever often varies between doctors and parents. Knowledge of the parents' concept of fever may help tailor counselling to their needs.

In this study we determine 1) the influence of socio-economic status and cultural background on two concepts of fever which we labelled "functional" and "fearful", each representing typical experiences of mothers, and 2) the actions taken by the mothers related to these concepts.


A standardized interview study was conducted among German and Turkish mothers in Germany in 2009. The questionnaire consisted of 36 questions and 205 items. Interviews were conducted in 16 private practices of paediatricians and 2 paediatric emergency departments in an urban region of Germany. The two fever concepts were represented in 6 statements that could be rated with a six-point Likert scale. The association of the socio-economic status and the cultural background with one of the fever concepts was determined by a multiple logistic regression.


A total of 338 mothers (49% with a Turkish background) completed the interview (response rate 92%). The average age of mothers with a German background was higher (34.1 years vs. 32.0 years, p = 0.0001). Mothers with a Turkish background were more likely to relate to the concept "fearful" [adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) 1.99; confidence interval (CI) 1.16-3.44]. Mothers with a middle or high socio-economic status were more likely to respond to the concept "functional" [middle: AOR, 0.53; CI, 0.30-0.92; high: AOR, 0.44; CI, 0.21-0.95].

Mothers adhering to the concept "fearful" more often gave acetaminophen before the recommended interval of 6 hours (46.8% vs. 31.3%, p = 0.005) and visited out-of-hours services more frequently in the preceding 9 months than the other group (0.7 vs. 0.4, p = 0.001).


A Turkish migrant background and a low socio-economic status are associated with the fever concept "fearful". Mothers with these attributes seem to require specific and reassuring counselling as they use antipyretic drugs extensively and out-of-hours services frequently.