FEVER IS an alarming thing when it happens to your child. We give medicine to
bring the fever down as soon as possible, we call doctors, and we worry. But what
is fever, exactly, and what is the best thing to do when it happens to your child?
FEVER IS ACTUALLY a good thing. It tells you that your child's immune system is working properly and that the body is fighting off illness. When your child gets an illness, the white blood cells start fighting it. Sometimes they need extra help. So they send messengers, called interleukins, to the hypothalamus in your child's brain, asking for help. The hypothalamus then sends the body a message to raise the temperature. Heat kills much bacteria and this is the reason for the body's raise in temperature when fighting illness. The body's thermostat is raised and your child gets chills because shivering is the quickest way to warm the body. Fever begins.. When the body has heated enough and the thermostat is then turned down, your child sweats in order to cool down. The fever has broken.
THAT IS THE WHAT AND WHY of fever. Now, to take the scariness out of fever, we will explain some common fever worries.
WORRY: "A temperature of over 98.6 F is a fever!"
EXPLANATION: Most doctors don't consider temperatures under 100 F to be a fever.
WORRY: "Fever causes seizures!"
EXPLANATION: Febrile (fever-induced) seizures occur in only 5% of young children, and are caused not by high fever, but by the rapidness in which the fever comes on. Febrile seizures are not dangerous and do not cause lasting damage.
WORRY: "I have to keep my child in bed!"
EXPLANATION: Fever takes a lot of energy, so rest is helpful and will make your child feel better. However, it is not essential and if the child is happier up and playing, it won't hurt him/her to let him/her do so.
WORRY: "My child shouldn't eat when (s)he has a fever-- remember 'starve a fever'!"
EXPLANATION: Most kids aren't hungry when they have a fever to begin with. But if they are, keeping them from eating will not help the fever, and will only make your child feel worse! What you do need to do is give plenty of liquids-- water, juice, ice chips, jello, popsicles. Electrolytes are only necessary of diarrhea and vomiting are also present, or your child is sweating profusely.
WORRY: "The fever must be brought down as soon as possible!"
EXPLANATION: Fever can actually be left to run its course. It is fulfilling a job, after all. Fever is not dangerous until it gets very high-- above 102 F at least. However, giving the child acetaminophen will make the child feel better.
(Note: Always take the advice of your pediatrician!)
* Rectal method can be used for children 0-8 years. A fever is 100.4 F or higher.
Use vaseline for comfort!
* Ear method can be used for children 6 months and up. A fever is 99.0 F or higher. Don't use during an ear infectiom!
* Oral method can be used for children 8 years and up. A fever is 99.0 F or higher. Keep mouth closed for 3-4 minutes!
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR!
+ Your child has a temperature of 101 F or higher (toddlers, not babies!)
+ Your child shows signs of listlessness or odd, unresponsive behavior
+ Your child has fewer wet diapers than usual and his/her mouth and eyes are dry (dehydration)
+ Your child passes out or is difficult to awaken during sleep
+ You are worried and feel you need to call the doctor-- never ignore your instincts!
* Child's name, age, and current weight
* Your child's temperature, when it was last taken, and by which method
* Other symptoms you may notice
* Chronic conditions or allergies your child has
TREATING THE FEVER!
Give the child plenty of fluids to keep from dehydrating!
Keep your child cool by removing heavy clothing. Do not remove everything. Your child's body will find its own appropriate temperature if dressed normally.
If you want to medicate your child, give acetaminophen or ibuprofin only. Never give your child aspirin!
To help your child feel better, you could try a spongebath. Use lukewarm water only-- NEVER USE ICE! A spongebath should only be given after the fever has broken (the child is sweating).
Read to your child or watch a children's video together to distract her/him from his/her illness. Please do not use the video as a babysitter-- your child needs your love right now!
Give TLC. Cuddle your child and affirm to him/her that (s)he'll feel better soon and that you're right there for him/her.
Massage and music can be very soothing to a child. However, some children don't want to be touched when they are sick
DO NOT: overdress or completely undress your child. Let his/her body find its own temperature.
DO NOT: put ice water or alcohol on the child!
DO NOT: awaken your child to give him/her medicine. As long as your child's fever is not extremely high, sleep is more important!
**Always consult your pediatrician before taking medical advice!**
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I can't tell you how many worried trips to the doctor this book has saved me over the years! I highly recommend it!
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