Is that fever a problem? Ask Thermia

Thermia fever calculator HealthMap

Your child’s forehead is warm, and you just took her temperature. The next question is, what to do about it? We all know that an average normal temp is 98.6°F, but is 100° a problem? Should 102° be a concern?

This is where Thermia comes in. It’s an online fever calculator developed by the HealthMap team at Boston Children’s Hospital. Essentially, it’s an educational tool aimed at helping concerned parents interpret a child’s temperature and understand which steps they should consider taking.

“I’m a father of two, and I still wonder sometimes what a temperature actually means,” says HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein, PhD. “We realized that there really aren’t any fever calculators out there to help parents answer that question.

“Our idea with Thermia,” he adds, “was to arm families with information so they don’t panic when their child has a temperature.”

How it works

After parents enter a child’s age, temperature and any symptoms, Thermia presents recommendations about whether to call their pediatrician, as well as weight- or age-based dosing guidelines developed by Boston Children’s doctors for over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen.

Lead developer Jared Hawkins, PhD, is quick to note that Thermia isn’t meant to provide medical advice—and the service has multiple disclaimers on this point.

“It’s for education and information only,” he says. “We want users to call their doctor or go to the hospital if there’s a concern.

“But,” he continues, “we also want them to have as much good knowledge as possible, so they can have a more informed discussion about their child’s care.” And indeed, if a user enters her email address, Thermia will email her its results and recommendations, so she can share them with her child’s doctor.

Go big

The Thermia team has ambitious goals for having their data and service integrated with offerings from device makers and parenting or medical websites. For instance, they’ve already partnered with Raiing Medical Corporation, a Chinese device company that makes a wearable, Bluetooth-capable thermometer called the iThermonitor. (Disclosure: Boston Children’s has a financial stake in the company’s U.S. subsidiary.)

They also see it as a possible tool for population-level disease surveillance.

“If we collect enough data about symptoms, and if people enter their zip code, we can begin to estimate the prevalence of flu and gastrointestinal illnesses regionally or nationally,” Hawkins says. “It then becomes another data stream to help understand what’s going on in the community.”

If the data look really good, particularly at the national level, Hawkins adds, he could even see trying to run predictive analytics for flu or other diseases.

“Maybe by next flu season we could start doing some real surveillance,” he says.

BetaBoston recently ran a story on how Thermia and the iThermonitor work together. Check it out.