A fever is one of the most common reasons why parents seek medical help for their children. Parents become concerned when they see their children lethargic, glassy-eyed, flushed, and warm to the touch. It is important, however, to confirm and check if she/he is febrile by measuring the body temperature with a reliable thermometer.
The 411 on Fevers
Your child has a fever if his or her body temperature reads 100°F or 38 °C and higher. Most fevers are beneficial since it’s the body’s natural way of fighting off infection. An elevated body temperature limits the reproduction and replication of heat-sensitive bacteria and viruses. There is also an increased production of white blood cells, which are the body’s immunity cells. In a high body temperature, the motility and killing ability of your white blood cells are enhanced for up to 20 times (over 25,000 cells per microliter) the normal neutrophil count, thereby preparing them to battle with most bacteria and virus.
How high does the temperature have to be in order to fight off infection? Ideally, to fight infection, a person’s body temperature should be at around 102 to 103 °F.
Here are some common misconceptions about a fever that you’ll do well to remember each time your child runs one. That way, you’ll know what to do instead of panicking from the get-go.
Shedding Light on Fever Misconceptions
While 98.6 °F is a standard body temperature, a child’s body temperature can actually range from 97 to 99 °F depending on what time of day it is. Engaging in physical activities, playing outside on a sunny day, taking a hot bath, or wearing layered clothing can up the temperature of your child’s body, and it shouldn’t make you worry.
If fever misconceptions have you on pins and needles, don’t miss these myth-busting facts:
- As mentioned previously, a reading of 98.6 °F is normal. Your child isn’t even close to catching a fever. The only time you should worry is if the reading goes beyond 100 °F because then, the risk of dehydration rises.
- Febrile seizures can cause you to panic. However, these episodes are typically harmless for children whose temperature reading is somewhere around 100.4 °F. Remember, the seizure occurs early in the onslaught of fever and not when the child’s temperature has shot up to 104 °F. It usually lasts for a few minutes before the child recovers. However, if it lasts for more than five minutes and your child turns blue, call for medical help immediately.
- As far as thermometers go, rectal ones tend to give you a slightly higher, yet more accurate, readings than the other types.
- Fever doesn’t usually cause brain damage! The only time this happens is when the fever reaches 108 °F, which usually occurs in people with brain damage.
- Fever is not a disease! Rather, it’s a symptom or sign of an underlying illness (infection).
- Touching your child’s forehead or neck to check his temperature will not give you the answers you need. Skin temperature changes depending on what your child was doing before you touched him.
- Antipyretic drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are usually prescribed to manage the fever. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), however, recommends that the parents’ main goal should be geared towards ensuring the comfort of their child instead of striving to reduce the body temperature. Further recommendations include increasing the sick child’s oral fluid intake and keeping an eye out for signs and symptoms of serious diseases.
- Never administer medicines based on how much you think your child needs. The dosage should always be based on his weight.
- Don’t always rely on the temperature reading. If it’s showing low-grade fever but your child is exhibiting signs of lethargy or if you simply find something off with his countenance, contact the doctor right away. Thermometers, especially battery-operated ones, can also malfunction.
- Not everyone who has fever gets a seizure. In fact, only 4% of children experience seizure along with fever.
- If your child has a fever, the increase in body temperature also stimulates the body’s metabolism to speed up. In order to provide the body with sufficient energy to recover, you should incorporate a healthy amount of carbohydrate-rich food into your child’s diet.
- Up your child’s intake of vitamin C for it has been shown that vitamin C supplementation can prevent and treat systemic infections.
- Bathing your child is not contraindicated at all. In fact, research has shown that avoiding regular bath is one of the harmful steps that parents take when managing fever at home. However, if a full bath or shower makes your child uncomfortable, you can give them a bed or a sponge bath as an alternative.
- You should also avoid wrapping your child in a blanket because it will further increase the body temperature.
The next time your child gets a fever, don’t act on bad information. With the right knowledge and know-how, you’ll be able to both manage your child’s condition and find better peace of mind.