Few things make parents feel as helpless as when their child is sick. Most parents can handle a bit of a runny nose, a cough or an upset tummy, but fevers can make a parent panic – no matter how mild the temperature is. At Bay Street Pediatrics, we understand that concern, especially when it’s our little ones that are warm and flushed. We are parents ourselves!
Treating a fever is often misunderstood. It is always necessary to give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen? What should you do if the temperature doesn’t go down? When should you call our office? When should you go to the emergency room? How high does the fever have to go before it becomes dangerous? Bay Street Pediatrics is here to explain fever protocol and help you avoid falling into fever phobia.
Why do we run a fever?
Elevating temperature is the body’s way of fighting an infection, such as the flu. A fever indicates that the immune system is working as it should, fighting invading viruses and bacteria. An elevated temperature also decreases the ability of viruses and bacteria to reproduce and causes white blood cells to replicate to fight infection. A fever may shorten the duration of the illness.
What is “normal?”
The standard normal body temperature is considered to be 98.6°F. But in fact, normal is a range, anywhere from 97°F to 99°F. When a person’s body temperature becomes elevated to 100.4°F or higher, they are considered to have a fever.
What is “Fever Phobia?”
Fever Phobia is “unrealistic and exaggerated misconceptions” about fever, including the misconception that nearly any fever can cause seizures or serious neurological complications.
Fevers in a generally healthy child are not a danger. They are a symptom of illness or infection. Medications properly used can reduce a fever by 2-3 degrees, but having fever phobia can result in overdosing your child to achieve a “normal” temperature.
When giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen, do not use other medications that also include these ingredients, such as a cold or cough medicine, as this will double dose your child. Do not give your child aspirin.
Avoid fever phobia by using an accurate digital thermometer to measure your child’s temperature and understanding that low-grade and moderate fevers, any temperature up to 104˚F, will not cause any type of neurological side effect.
So what should I do when my child runs a fever?
If your child is over three months of age and has a fever but is playing and eating, it’s not necessary to administer medication.
When your child has a fever along with other concerning symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, lethargy or nausea, administer the recommended dosage of ibuprofen or acetaminophen and call us for symptoms that are not improving.
Call our office when your child older than 3 months:
- when a fever has lasted more than three to five days even if your child is acting well otherwise
- when the fever does not respond to the appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen within 2 hours
- when your child has headache with neck stiffness or confusion
- difficulty breathing
- signs of dehydration
- any other concerns you have
When your infant is UNDER 3 months of age and is running a temperature of 100.4˚F or higher, call our office immediately.
Besides pain relievers, what can I do to make my child more comfortable?
Time and sleep are usually the best ways to resolve a mild fever, allowing your child’s immune system to fight the infection. Be sure your child is drinking lots of breastmilk or formula when they are under one year of age, and for older children, plenty of water, Pedialyte or warm (not hot) clear broth.
Turn off screens to encourage your child to sleep.
As parents, we want to make our kids feel better as quickly as possible. Fortunately, most often fevers are minor and will usually resolve within a day or two with minimal intervention.
When you have questions about fevers or other symptoms, message your Bay Street Pediatrics pediatrician through your portal or call 203-227-3674. We are always happy to help.