Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Parents' perceptions of taking babies' rectal temperature.

British Medical Journal 1993; 307 doi: (Published 11 September 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;307:660
  1. J Kai
  1. Department of Primary Health Care, School of Health Care Sciences, Medical School, Newcastle upon Tyne.


    OBJECTIVE--To explore the attitudes of parents to measuring their babies' rectal temperature. DESIGN--Qualitative study using unstructured interviews of parents given "Baby Check," a scoring system designed to assess severity of illness in babies that includes measurement of rectal temperature. SETTING--One inner city general practice in Newcastle upon Tyne. SUBJECTS--42 parents of 34 babies under 6 months old. RESULTS--Parents were reluctant to measure rectal temperature in their babies; 37 parents spontaneously raised concerns. Fifteen did not undertake measurement, 16 did so once only, and 11 did so more than once. Parents' concerns included a fear of hurting their child, anxieties about sexual intimacy and abuse, difficulty in comforting their child, and concern for their child's feelings. Most (33) substituted axillary measurement. CONCLUSIONS--Parents' preference for the axillary method of measuring temperature and resistance to using a rectal method in their children was based on several concerns. If parents are to be encouraged to use the rectal method of measuring temperature in sick babies any benefits must be set against the generation of considerable parental anxiety and the resources that would be necessary to negotiate with parents and change their views.