The current pandemic has made an already feared thing into a more dreaded thing.. I am talking about fever!! The mere sound of this word, especially in the Covid era, makes us run in frenzy.
When your child wakes in the middle of the night hot, and cranky, as a parent you might get hassled as to what to do. Should you give your child medicine or let a fever run its course? How do you know when it’s time to visit the doctor? And what are some of the signs that your child’s fever is more than a simple virus?
Many such questions come into your minds as a parent. There are also many myths about fever. Most parents think fever will hurt their child. They worry and lose sleep when their child has a fever. This is called fever phobia. But let me tell you that, most fevers are harmless and infact often helpful.
All children get fever from time to time.. A fever itself usually causes no harm and can actually be a good thing. it’s often a sign that the body is fighting an infection.
So Today I will ease your fever fears and talk to you about common concerns which come to your mind as a parent when your child has fever.
What exactly Is Fever?
Fever simply put is a symptom of an illness. It is not a disease as most parents think. In brain there is a part called hypothalamus, which has a thermostat kind of function. The hypothalamus knows what temperature your body should be (usually around 98.6°F/37°C) and will send messages to your body to keep it that way.
Fever happens when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above its normal level, which can be due to any reason. . It cud be infection, illness or some other cause, because turning up the heat is a way for the body to fight the germs that cause infections, making it a less comfortable place for them.
Most kids body temperatures change a little bit during the course of the day: It’s usually a little lower in the morning and a little higher in the evening and also can vary as kids run around, play, and exercise. Infants tend to have higher temperatures than older children.
How to know it is a Fever?
Although a hand placed lightly on the skin is often enough to give you a hint that your child has a fever. However, this method of taking a temperature won’t give an accurate measurement. As children normally also radiate a lot of heat depending on their activity level and environment. So if a child feels warm to you, they might not actually be having fever especially if only the forehead feels warm.
Always Use a thermometer to confirm a fever. It’s a fever when a child’s temperature is at or above one of these levels:
- measured orally (in the mouth): 100°F (37.8°C)
- measured in an axillary position (under the arm): 99°F (37.2°C)
- measured rectally (in the bottom): 100.4°F (38°C)
But how high a fever is doesn’t tell you much about how sick your child is.
Sometimes kids with a fever might breathe faster than usual and may have a faster heart rate, this is expected.
Why does fever occur ?
It’s important to remember that fever by itself is not an illness — it’s usually a sign or symptom of another problem. Most common being:
Infection: one of the most common cause . A fever helps the body fight infections
Overdressing: Infants, especially newborns, may get fevers if they’re overclothed or they stay in a hot environment because they are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as older kids. But on the flipside, fevers in newborns can indicate a serious infection, so even infants who are overdressed must be checked by a doctor if they have a fever.
Immunizations: Babies and kids sometimes get a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated.
Although teething is believed to be a cause of fever but it may only cause a slight rise in body temperature, it’s usually not the cause if temperature is higher than 100°F (37.8°C).
When Is a Fever a Sign of Something Serious?
Fevers are not something bad. It is a sign that your child’s body is trying to fight infection. High fever, though, can however make a child uncomfortable and make problems (such as dehydration) worse.
If an infant 3 months or younger has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, it should be checked by a doctor . Even a slight fever can be a sign of a potentially serious infection in very young babies.
If your child is between 3 months and 3 years old and has a fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher, should be seen by a doctor.
For older kids, take behavior and activity level into account. Watching how your child behaves will give you a pretty good idea of whether a minor illness is the cause or if your child should be seen by a doctor.
The illness is probably not serious if your child:
- is still interested in playing
- is eating and drinking well
- is alert and smiling at you
- has a normal skin color
- looks normal when his or her temperature comes down
When Should you take the child to the Doctor?
The exact temperature that should trigger a visit to the doctor depends on a child’s age, the illness, and whether there are other symptoms with the fever.
So talk to your doctor if you have an:
- infant younger than 3 months old with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- older child with a temperature of higher than 102.2°F (39°C)
Also if an older child has a fever of lower than 102.2°F (39°C) but also:
- seems too ill to drink adequately
- has lasting diarrhea or repeated vomiting
- has any signs of dehydration (peeing less than usual, not having tears when crying, less alert and less active than usual)
- has a specific complaint (like a sore throat or earache)
- still has a fever after 48 hours (in kids younger than 2 years old) or 72 hours (in kids 2 years or older)
- has a chronic medical problem,
- has a rash
- has pain while peeing
Take your child to emergency if your child shows any of these signs:
- extreme irritability or incessant crying
- sluggishness and trouble waking up
- a rash or purple spots that look like bruises on the skin (that were not there before your child got sick)
- blue lips, tongue, or nails
- infant’s soft spot on the head seems to be bulging out or sunken in
- stiff neck
- severe headache
- trouble breathing that doesn’t get better when the nose is cleared
- moderate to severe belly pain
How can you help your child feel better at home?
Not all fevers need to be treated. In most cases, a fever should be treated only if it’s causing a child discomfort.
Here are ways to ease symptoms that often accompany a fever:
If your child is fussy or uncomfortable, you can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on your doctor’s advice or the package recommendations for age or weight but only when child has fever.
Infants younger than 2 months old should not be given any medicine for fever without being checked by a doctor. If your child has any medical problems, check with the doctor to see which medicine is best to use. Remember that fever medicine can temporarily bring a temperature down, but it won’t treat the underlying reason for the fever.
Home Comfort Measures
Dress your child in lightweight clothing and cover with a light sheet or blanket. Overdressing and overbundling can prevent body heat from escaping and can cause the temperature to rise.
Make sure your child’s bedroom is a comfortable temperature — not too hot or too cold.
While some parents use lukewarm sponge baths to lower fever, this method only helps temporarily.. But NEVER use ice or cold water to bring your child’s fever down. It is not safe and will make your child uncomfortable and may infact raise the temperature further by causing shivering. Also, avoid bundling your child in more layers of clothing or blankets, because this makes it more difficult for the body to release the extra heat and cool down.
Food and Drinks
Offer plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration because fever makes children lose fluids more rapidly than usual. Water, soup, buttermilk, coconut water, milk, homemade juices etc are all good choices. Avoid drinks with caffeine, including colas and tea, because they can make dehydration worse by increasing urination (peeing).
If your child also has diarrhea, you should give an electrolyte (rehydration) solution made especially for kids. Don’t offer sports or sugary drinks like juices — they’re not made for younger children and the added sugars can make diarrhea worse.
And don’t worry too much about a child with a fever who doesn’t want to eat. This is very common with infections that cause fever. For kids who still drink and urinate (pee) normally, not eating as much as usual is OK.
In general, let kids eat what they want (in reasonable amounts), but don’t force it if they don’t feel like it.
Taking it Easy
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. Staying in bed all day isn’t necessary, but a sick child should take it easy.
It’s best to keep a child with a fever home from school or childcare. Most doctors feel that it’s safe to return when the temperature has been normal for 24 hours.
What else should you know?
All kids get fevers, and in most cases they’re completely back to normal within a few days. For older babies and kids, the way they act can be more important than the reading on your thermometer. Everyone gets a little cranky when they have a fever. This is normal and should be expected.
But if you’re ever in doubt about what to do or what a fever might mean, or if your child is acting ill in a way that concerns you even if there’s no fever, always visit your doctor for advice.
What Types of Thermometers Are Available?
Digital thermometers give the quickest, most accurate readings, and are the only kind that doctors currently recommend. Available in a variety of sizes and shapes, they’re sold at most chemists.
Digital thermometers are used for these temperature-taking methods:
- oral (in the mouth) — best for kids 4–5 years or older who can cooperate
- axillary (under the arm) — the most common but is least accurate, but good for a first check
- rectal (in the bottom) — most accurate method for children under 3 years old although not widely used in India
Other Types of Thermometers
- Temporal artery thermometers — these measure heat waves on side of forehead and can be used in infants 3 months and older
- Infrared thermometers: measure surface temperature, depend on ambient temperature. With this pandemic, they have suddenly gained popularity
- Electronic ear (tympanic) thermometers — these measure heat waves from the eardrum and can be used in infants 6 months and older
Types Not Recommended
These types of thermometers aren’t recommended because they’re less accurate:
- plastic strip thermometers
- pacifier thermometers
- smartphone temperature apps
Glass mercury thermometers were once common, but they are cumbersome to use and also might lead to possible exposure to mercury, a toxin.
Tips for Taking Temperatures by Age
As any parent knows, taking an irritable child’s temperature can be a challenge. The best method will depend on a child’s age and temperament. Engage the child in some activity if they are making a fuss only while taking temperature. Pretend play works wonders in toddlers.
For babies younger than 6 months, most reliable reading can be obtained by using a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature but its not a very common way and some parents might feel scared about hurting their child. So armpit or Infrared or ear thermometer can be used depending on availability
For kids between 6 months and 4 years old, a digital thermometer can be used to take an axillary temperature. You also can use a tympanic (ear) or infrared (forehead) thermometer but all of these are less accurate.
For kids 4 years or older, you can usually use a digital thermometer to take an oral temperature if your child will cooperate.
Fevers are unavoidable. The key is to make your child as comfortable as possible until the fever passes, and get medical treatment when needed.
So ease your fever fears!!
Be calm and talk to your doctor in case of any problem!
Dr Garima| themoppetsclinic 😇😇🌡🌡