My Child Has a Fever! What Should I Do?

Thursday, March 3, 2011 by Anthony N.
A recent report by The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some new guidelines on how to treat a child who is running a fever. Many parents quickly turn to ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce the child's body temperature, but that isn't always the best route to go. The report explains that maintaining the child's temperature close to "normal" should not be the main concern and instead, "the primary goal of treating the febrile child should be to improve the child's overall comfort."

child with feverMany parents administer a fever reducing OTC when temperatures are only slightly above 100 degrees F and this is usually not the best course of action to take because "current evidence suggests that there is no substantial difference in the safety and effectiveness of acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the care of a generally healthy child with a fever." The report also reminds us that a fever is not an illness, but instead the body's beneficial mechanism to fight the actual infection, which is often viral.

The Chicago Tribune article on this Pediatrics report explains that most fevers will go away naturally without medicine and without causing any damage. The report's co-author Dr. Henry Farrar says that fevers are a leading cause of doctor visits for children, and that there is a lot of "parental anxiety" regarding the subject. He reminds us that fevers can "slow the growth of viruses and bacteria, and enhance the production of important immune-system cells." 

If your child has a fever, pay attention to these key sickness indicators:

          • Crankiness
          • Energy levels
          • Fluid intake
          • Food intake

Some tips for comforting your feverish child:

          • Let them get plenty of sleep
          • Keep them hydrated
          • A cool wash cloth can feel soothing
          
These reports and advice are suggested for children, not infants. If your infant is running a fever, you are advised to bring them in to the doctor. The NPR Health Blog's post on this report closes with the simple advice that "parents and doctors pay more attention to the full range of child's symptoms to detect serious illness rather than focusing on the temperature." 

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