What To Do When Your Child Has A Fever

Although many parents become concerned when their sick child runs a fever, it’s important to note that fever is actually a good thing.  It’s your child’s natural response to infection and is a sign that the immune system is working properly to fight illness. In healthy children, mild fevers rarely indicate anything serious and although it can be alarming when and if the fever rises, fever by itself causes no harm. It’s your body’s internal thermostat found in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus knows that your body temperature is meant to hover around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and usually regulates that temp by sending messages to the rest of your body. When an infection hits, the hypothalamus resets the internal temperature as a way to make the body less comfortable for the illness-causing microorganisms. Fever, in short, is a defense mechanism. Even when there is no health threat, temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day, especially among children, whose temperature tends to be lower in the morning and a little higher in the evening. Physical activity can also affect internal temperature.

Most parents immediately treat a child’s fever with over-the-counter medications like aspirin or Tylenol.  But, contrary to popular belief, not all fevers need to be treated. The only reason to treat a high fever is to make your child feel more comfortable. If your child is showing no signs of discomfort, it may be wise to forgo the meds completely and simply monitor your child’s condition.

Although fever is a sign that the body is working properly and it’s not always necessary to treat it, this doesn’t mean that fever should be ignored completely or taken lightly. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek the help of a physician, especially if your child is an infant or toddler. Young babies can get sick very quickly, so even a toddler fever or infant fever of 100 degrees can be concerning. For older children, a 100-degree high fever isn’t necessarily serious, especially if the child seems fine otherwise. If the fever increases to 101.4 F, monitor your child’s condition closely and pay attention to any other symptoms. If the fever persists for more than three days, consider calling your physician. A child of any age with a fever of 104 F or above should be evaluated by a doctor.

In many cases, a child’s behavior and attitude is more important than a reading on a thermometer. Fever can cause children to become clingy, fussy or tired, but once the fever goes down, these symptoms usually disappear. If they don’t, contact your doctor, especially if the young patient doesn’t want to eat or drink fluids. Although it isn’t necessary to overload your child with blankets, make sure he or she is dressed comfortably.

The good news is that all kids get fevers and in the majority of cases most are back to normal within a few days. Parents can use their better judgment to determine when it’s time to become alarmed.  Even though there may not be a serious problem, calling your family doctor for advice can be a good idea for peace of mind.

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