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|Putting Out the Fire
What to Do about Fever
Research by the Content Manager
|Fevers can cause
sleepless nights for parents of young children, but in most
cases excessive worry isn't warranted. Fever itself is not an illness, it is
a symptom of an infection. Think of fever as a positive sign that your
child's body is fighting back. Fevers usually are not harmful, but when the
body temperature is extremely high (106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) then
there is risk of bodily harm. In these instances you should seek immediate
medical attention for your child.
Although the exact definition of fever is debatable, many experts define it
as a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees measured rectally; 99.5 measured
by the mouth or in the ear; and 98.6 when measured under the arm. How you
measure your child's temperature will depend on her age and whether she can
sit still long enough to get an accurate reading.
In most cases, you should simply monitor your child's behavior when she has
a fever. If she doesn't seem uncomfortable, is eating well, and acts close
to normal, then the fever will usually subside on its own within three days.
Low-grade and moderate fevers (under 102 degrees) often don't require any
special treatment. Give her extra fluids, keep her comfortable, let her
decide when she wants to eat and limit her activity.
If you decide to use medication, either acetaminophen or ibuprofen is a good
choice for children aged two or older. Do not give aspirin to children
because of possible side effects such as upset stomach, intestinal bleeding,
and Reye's syndrome (damage to the liver and brain). If the fever is
particularly high (over 104 degrees) or your child is uncomfortable or can't
take medication, then you might try sponging her with lukewarm water.
If your child appears ill, you should always call your pediatrician
immediately. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you also
call your doctor right away if:
- Your child is 2 months or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.2
degrees or higher
- Is between 3 and 6 months and has a temperature of 101 degrees or higher
- Is older than 6 months with a temperature of 103 degrees or higher
High temperature may indicate a serious infection or dehydration. Also,
prolonged fevers pose a risk of dehydration (very dry mouth, dry skin, dry
eyes, urinating very little). You should also call if your child has a
seizure, refuses fluids or shows signs of dehydration, seems confused or
difficult to awaken, or the fever persists for more than three days.
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