Fever strikes fear in many parent’s hearts, and the numbers show how powerful the fear of fever is: according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fever is one of the most common reasons parents bring in their child to see the doctor. The academy wants to get the word out to parents and practitioners alike: Don’t fear fever: danger lies in the illnesses or conditions that lead to fever, but fever itself rarely is dangerous.
What Role Does Fever Play?
Fever or body temperature higher than a person’s normal temperature (which varies among us) usually indicates that there is some type of infection going on. Fever helps the body fight infection by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and viruses in the body. It also helps promote activity in the immune system that attacks pathogens.
What About Very High Temperatures?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that parents, and even some physicians, recommend anti-fever (antipyretic) medications too often, and when fever is too low to warrant their use. You might be surprised to find out that most pediatricians only recommend medication for fevers above 101 F, and that medication will help children feel better, not necessarily bring the child’s body temperature all the way back down to “normal.”
Very high fevers (104 F and above) in children indicate that there is an illness that needs to be treated. Again, it’s not the fever causing the illness; rather, it’s a warning that something serious is going on.
You may have heard about febrile convulsions, and this can be a very scary thing to witness in your child. However, for the most part, unless your child has a chronic illness or a history of convulsions, they rarely occur, and rarely cause lasting problems.
How to Treat Fevers Without Medications
Keep your child hydrated. Fluids such as water, electrolyte-laden sports drinks (such as Gatorade), popsicles, and diluted fruit juice are good options.
Keep room temperatures cool, but not cold, and definitely not hot and stuffy. Make sure there is good air circulation throughout the home.
Don’t pile on blankets and sweaters. Light, comfortable clothing is best.
If your child is alert and happy, it’s okay to move around and play. But limit physical activity to avoid overexertion.
Sponging your feverish child with tepid water can be helpful if your child cannot take anti-fever medications. In all cases, make sure your child doesn’t shiver – this will increase discomfort.
When in Doubt, Seek Medical Help
Ask your doctor about what type of anti-fever medication is best to use. And, importantly, the correct dose to use. Don’t expect the medication to return your child’s body temperature to normal. Rather, medication is generally used to make your child feel better.
The most important thing you can do if your child is feverish and in distress is to get medical advice. If there is an underlying illness, it will need to be treated. It’s important to ask about the right type and dosages of medication to give and when it’s needed.
Fevers in children are common, and often less worrisome than in adults, but to rule out infection or serious illness, talk with your doctor. Of course, after-hours and on weekends, urgent care centers can be a big help.
Tots ‘N’ Teens Pediatric Urgent Care in San Antonio, Texas, is one center helping parents sidestep the overcrowded ER when situations permit. In addition to being more cost-effective, they will save you precious time – so you and your little one can get back to your normal routine. Plus, Tots ‘N’ Teens employs board-certified pediatricians who are highly specialized at diagnosing illnesses in children. Check-in online, or call (210) 267-5411 for more information.