Nov 18, 2017

Don’t Panic: Understanding And Treating Childhood Fevers

Guest post brought to you by Vive Health.

Fever is one of the most common, and most misunderstood, of all childhood illness symptoms. Watch your child’s fever like a hawk, they say, because high fevers kill brain cells. And if their temperature spikes above 101, you might think you need to give them as many fever-reducing chemicals as they can possibly tolerate.

New research suggests, however, that those recommendations may have no basis.

Monitoring Fever

Unless your child is very young — like under three months — there is no reason to check a fever constantly. Furthermore, do not wake these children to check their temperatures. Whatever illness they have, sleep is a lot more important than a few tenths of a degree on the thermometer.

As for the device itself, it doesn’t need to be the most expensive one money can buy and have the accuracy of an atomic clock. Read more here to see a list of some of the best available thermometers including oral, ear, and temporal variations. If it is reliable, is relatively new, and has a large display that’s easy to read even in low light conditions, use it to measure a child’s temperature about once or twice a day.

Fever Dangers?

One of the most-Googled questions is some variation of “how high of a fever is too high?” Unless your child is a newborn, there is no answer, because there is no magic number that indicates serious illness. Instead, only take feverish children to the doctor if they have other symptoms as well, such as nonresponsiveness or dehydration.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the danger may lie in reducing a fever in an otherwise healthy child, because such measures may prolong the illness. A slightly elevated body temperature is the body’s way of fighting an infection, and removing that weapon is a bad idea. Furthermore, there may not be a connection between the temperature and the severity of the illness. In other words, a high fever isn’t necessarily bad. This condition may even help the child recover more quickly, according to the report, even if “the fever may result in discomfort in children.”

A febrile seizure is supposedly the boogeyman in this discussion. Such seizures are real, they are dangerous, and they are commonly associated with sudden changes in body temperature, mostly if the child’s temperature is above 100.4. These seizures are incredibly frightening, as the child usually goes into an unresponsive catatonic state and begins shaking violently. Many children also soil themselves and foam at the mouth.

But emerging evidence suggests that antipyretic (fever-reducing) drugs actually cause febrile seizures. The logic is actually fairly simple. Fever is a natural response to an infection. When drugs artificially lower body temperature, the body works even harder to elevate it, a phenomenon commonly known as rebound fever.

Febrile seizures affect about one in thirty children who have fevers; most of these children are between six months and six years old.

Reducing Fevers

All that being said, childhood fevers are very discomforting for both children and their parents. Fortunately, there is no reason to reach into the medicine cabinet to make everyone feel better.

  • Calcium: As a tool to fight infection, the body draws calcium from the bones. That’s what causes both the elevated temperature (at least in part) and the achy feeling that often accompanies fevers. Food calcium helps restore this balance. Supplements may work as well. Just be sure and include a Vitamin D supplement to increase absorption.
  • Chilled Food: Popsicles, yogurt, and other chilled foods cool children down from the inside out, and they are also classic sick treats.
  • Lukewarm Bath: As the water evaporates, it cools the skin. Don’t use cold water because it often causes chills, and don’t use any rubbing alcohol because it absorbs into the skin and might cause a temperature spike.

Furthermore, push fluids and stay indoors.

Childhood fever is not potentially deadly and it is not even particularly serious. In fact, if properly managed, it could even be your child’s best friend in terms of a quick recovery. 

Metro Detroit Mommy Writer: