The influence of reducing fever on blood oxygen saturation in children

Shmuel Goldberg*, Shmuel Heitner, Francis Mimouni, Leon Joseph, Reuben Bromiker, Elie Picard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Laboratory-based studies on the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve (ODC) suggest that high blood temperature decreases the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen. The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of pyrexia on oxygen saturation (SpO2) in children presenting to the emergency department. Normoxemic children with body temperature at or above 38.5 °C were included. Patients with a dynamic respiratory disease were excluded. SpO2 was measured before and after antipyretic treatment. The changes in body temperature and SpO2 were assessed and compared to the changes predicted from the ODC. Thirty-four children completed the study. Mean temperature at presentation was 39.17 ± 0.549 °C and mean SpO2 was 96.15 ± 2.21%. The mean decrease in temperature after antipyretic treatment was 1.71 ± 0.67 °C and mean increase in SpO2 was 0.95 ± 1.76%. Among children in whom pyrexia decreased by 1.5 °C or more, the mean increase in SpO2 was 1.45 ± 1.57%. The measured increase in SpO2 was close to the increase anticipated from the ODC. Conclusion: Pyrexia was associated with decreased SpO2 in normoxemic children. The influence of pyrexia in children with low-normal oxygen saturation is expected to be much higher because of the non-linear shape of the ODC. Physicians treating patients with fever should be aware of this effect, especially in patients with borderline hypoxia.What is Known:• High blood temperature decreases the affinity of oxygen to hemoglobin.• It is not known whether fever would decrease SpO2.What is New:• Fever is associated with decreased SpO2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-99
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Fever
  • Oxygen saturation
  • Oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve


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