What is a fever?
A child has a fever when his body temperature is above the normal. It is also known as high temperature. A body temperature greater than 37.5 degrees Celsius or 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit is considered as fever. You can get the temperature by using a tympanic, forehead, axillary, oral or rectal thermometer.
For infants below 5 months, it is more accurate to use the rectal thermometer. It is still the most accurate as the child gets older but he may get uncomfortable using it so it’s okay to use other routes.
When a child has a fever, he might also have the following signs and symptoms:
- Skin is warm to touch
- Frequent urination
- Blushing of cheeks
- More sweaty than usual
What causes fever?
You do not need to worry if your child has fever especially if it is low grade (37.6ᵒC-38ᵒC). Having a fever means your child has a healthy immune system. Fever is the body’s natural response to fight illnesses and infections.
The hypothalamus in the brain regulates the body temperature of humans. It varies every hour depending on factors like outside temperature. When there is an infection or other abnormality in the body condition, the hypothalamus adjusts the body temperature higher. After this, the immune system will then send white blood cells to fight the foreign bodies.
Common causes of high temperature in children are the following:
- Respiratory system infections
- Viral infections like flu and chickenpox
- Bacterial infections like pneumonia and ear infections.
What to do when children has fever
Most febrile episodes in children are not reasons for alarm. However, you have to closely observe and manage your child so that the fever will not lead to hyperthermia and febrile seizure. You also have to monitor other symptoms since a fever is usually a sign of an underlying condition. Take note of the other symptoms because they will guide you and your doctor in diagnosing the illness of your child. Do the following measures when your child has high temperature:
- Hydrate your child adequately. The hot temperature of the body causes fluids to be lost at a faster rate. Since children are more prone to dehydration, you have to replenish the lost fluids. If your child is still breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed as much as your child wants.
For older children, give water, milk, and fruit juices. Stay away from caffeinated drinks like iced tea and soda because they can hasten dehydration. You can also give popsicles and gelatin for hydration. When the child vomits, wait for 30 minutes before offering another drink.
- Remove excessive clothing. Layers of clothes can add to the warmth of the body and it won’t allow heat to escape. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton. Do not wrap your child in blankets. It might even be the reason your child has a fever.
- Sponge bath your child with lukewarm water instead of cold water. Using cold water, ice baths and alcohol will make the temperature drop too fast which is not favorable for the body. It will also make your child shiver. Do the sponge bath for half an hour paying attention to the forehead and armpits.
- Allow the child to get plenty of rest. The body heals itself faster under favorable conditions including adequate rest. Let him sleep and nap as much as he wants. Remove distractions like noise so your child can sleep well.
- You can give acetaminophen, the safest medication to give for fever. Do not give Ibuprofen or aspirin without a doctor’s prescription because these medications have side effects that may harm your child especially if the child is suffering from conditions which are not yet diagnosed. These are also not safe for very young infants. Base the dose on the packaging depending on your child’s weight. Give it every four hours only if your child has a fever.
- Keep your child comfortable at all times. If doing a sponge bath makes him cry, then stop. Agitating your child is not good for healing. You can grant simple requests from your child which will help him relax like watching TV.
- Give nutritious foods. Your best choice is to let your child heal naturally. To do this, you can give foods full of vitamins and nutrients to strengthen his immune system so the body can fight the infection on its own. Foods with probiotics like yogurt are great because they strengthen your child’s immunity.
- Do not let your child go to school or daycare yet even if he acts just fine so you can observe him and avoid infection from spreading to other kids. Only let your child return if he has been free from fever for 24 hours even without medications.
- Keep your child’s room at moderate temperature and keep it well-ventilated. During the day, open the windows if you can to keep your child’s room cool and let the air circulate.
- Do proper handwashing with soap and water frequently to avoid transfer of infection. Do this for the sick child and all family members.
- Remain calm. You cannot properly manage your child if you panic. Babies will also feel when you are stressed so they will become more agitated if they feel your stress.
When to call for help
- If the child has signs of dehydration like dry mouth, sunken eyes, reduced urination, and absence of tears.
- If your child is a newborn with fever.
- If your child below 3 months has a temperature of 38ᵒC or more.
- Your child is 3-6 months has a 39ᵒC temperature or higher.
- Your child has seizure
- The fever persists for more than a week.
- Your child is lethargic.
- There are other symptoms requiring medical attention.
Fever can be scary for any parent. By having the right knowledge and right attitude, you will be able to manage your child’s fever properly even without medical intervention. However, if your gut feeling tells you that the condition of your child is serious, it is best to consult a doctor right away. Being proven wrong with your instinct is better than putting your child’s welfare at risk.