My child is having fever: what should I do?
Fever or high temperature is often the biggest concern for parents. There are various Myths about fever in every society. Remember Fever is just a symptom, not a disease. It’s a way of body to fight off Infection. Various organisms like bacteria; virus etc cannot survive and replicate themselves in high body temperature.
Here I am listing 6 important facts about fever which we should all know. Many of them might be just opposite of what your parents or grandparents think. Aim of this post is to create awareness and decrease parental anxiety rather than to discredit grandparents.
These facts do not hold true for small children less than 3 months of age. Any newborn or small child with fever should be dealt with seriously and visit to pediatrician is a must.
- High grade fever like 104F does not mean you have to visit Emergency Department immediately: Yes you read it write, not even 104F. Fever only means that our immune system is fighting it out against these pathogenic organisms/attackers. As I told you before Fever is a symptom of illness rather than a disease.
- Intensity of fever does not always correspond with severity of Illness. Many a time simple viral illnesses can have high fever up to 104F whereas many serious illnesses might have mild fever. Every child reacts differently to fever. So instead of looking at the actual value of fever we should be looking at other signs of serious illness. Watch for general activity of child, their hydration level and urine output. If in doubt discuss with your child specialist.
- Sometimes Fever might not touch baseline: We have to look at comfort level of child rather the numerical value on thermometer. It is absolutely fine if body temperature does not reach baseline and your child is actively playing around. Goal of given anti-fever medications (like paracetamol, ibuprofen etc) is to make your child comfortable and feel better.
- Incorrect dose: Many parents are giving wrong doses to the child, or some might deliberately give only half the dose. Remember appropriate dose is a must, discuss with your pediatrician regarding right dose as per the weight of your child. For example dose of paracetamol is 10-15 mg /kg/dose.
- Brain damage: Every normal person’s brain has an internal thermostat that will prevent body temperature to go beyond limits to cause brain damage. Some children might have febrile seizures; but even they are benign and do not causes brain damage. It is only when hyperthermia or heat stroke occur that it will lead to brain damage. These cases are very rare and occur only in special circumstance. In normal child who has fever due to illness will not cause brain damage (unless until the cause of illness is itself brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis).
- Not antibiotics; only anti-fever (antipyretic) medicines like paracetamol are needed.Antibiotics as the name suggest are “Anti-biotic” means against bacteria; needed only when bacterial infection is confirmed and most of the common illnesses in children are viral. Viral infections are self limiting which settles down with time. We should avoid indiscriminate you of antibiotics in every case of fever.
If you are coming to the pediatrician’s office because your child has a fever, and baby is uncomfortable, please give your child a fever-reducing medication prior to coming to the office. You do not have to wait until the doctor “sees them with a fever.” A comfortable child is much easier to examine. And a good exam will often determine the cause of the fever, allowing for accurate treatment.
Interesting anecdote from past regarding fever:
Concern about childhood fevers is long-standing in our history. Fever superstitions and ancient fever remedies are ribboned throughout all cultures. For example, Romans would trim the fingernails of those affected with fever. Using wax to attach the fingernail clippings to a neighbor’s front door was thought to transmit the fever to that household. Note: Do not have ancient Romans as neighbors. And, even today, we see lots of elders using their different unique methods to get fever down.
Dr Rahul Varma
“Healthy Kids, Happy Family”