has my child got a fever Advice & Tips

Most children with a fever will recover without any serious illness, but the advice on how to manage them at home can range from the unhelpfully vague to terrifying stories. To be frank, when your child is miserable and roasting hot, the last thing you want to do is sift through old wives tales to find some sound medical advice. Here are a few common questions on fever answered by paediatrician.

What is a fever? A fever is classified as a body temperature above 37.5 C in a child older than one month. A temperature between 37.5C to 38C will often be referred to as a “low grade” fever, anything higher is a real fever. A child less than 4 weeks old may not get a fever when unwell, some may even drop their body temperature when unwell. If you have any concerns about a new-born baby, do not wait on a high temperature, see your doctor right away.

What is the best way to measure my child’s temperature? A child’s temperature is best measured with an electronic digital thermometer in the armpit (if they are less than 1 month old) or ear (from 1 month to 5 years). Infra red tympanic thermometers and chemical dot strips are also effective in children over 1 month. Rectal or oral thermometers are not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), they are not accurate and can be easily misread. Placing a hand on your child’s forehead may indicate that they are hot, but not how hot and some children may even feel icy cold during a fever.

Why does my child have a fever? Fevers are a normal part of the body’s immune system identifying and attacking foreign objects like bacteria and viruses. A fever serve a purpose in fighting an infection and should not be treated unless your child is distressed.

Knowing the cause for your child’s fever is helpful, if you are worried, get your child reviewed by a healthcare professional. This may not always be clear on the first day, but knowing what is causing the fever helps you know what to expect, when to get worried and whether to isolate your child.

Is a fever dangerous? No they are part of the body’s immune system. A fever can become troublesome when it makes your child so uncomfortable that they cannot eat, drink or sleep creating a viscous cycle of worsening irritability as they become more hungry, thirsty or tired. Some children do have convulsions with fevers, but these cannot be prevented by treating the fever early. Only treat the fever if your child is distressed.

Does the height of the fever signify how sick my child is? Generally the height of the temperature alone does not reflect how serious an illness is. How your child is behaving, their pulse and speed of breathing are all clues that point to how seriously sick they are. If your two year old has a temperature of 40C and is his normal cheerful self, you can watch him at home. However a baby less than 3 months old with a temperature above 38C should always be seen by a healthcare professional, as should any baby 3-6 months old with a temperature above 39C.

How can I keep my child comfortable at home? Only treat a fever if your child is distressed. It is important that the source of fever be identified as sometimes, as treating the cause may be the best way to tackle the fever. Paracetamol or ibuprofen are the recommended medications for a fever. Use the doses and frequency recommended by the manufacturer. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen should not be given at the same time. This will leave you with no options should your child becomes distressed before the next dose of medication is due. Instead use only one medication as your mainstay of treatment. If your child becomes hot an irritable before the next dose of medication (eg Paracetamol) is due, you can then use the alternative medication (Ibuprofen). Sponging with a wet cloth is not recommended as the sole treatment for a fever. Your child may get dehydrated from the fever, so give your child lots of fluids, that alone may perk them up.

Todays Blog was written by Dr Tamara Bugembe, a Consultant Paediatrician at Kings College Hospital, London. If you like this article and want to hear more from Dr Tamara Bugembe , please let us know below.

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