Any child under 5 who has a temperature of 38C or above is considered to have a fever.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Facts on fever
- Causes of fever in children
- Symptoms of fever in children
- How to care for a child with fever
- When to call or see a doctor
- How to prevent fever in children
Facts on fever
Nearly all (if not all) parents have had their share of fever in children. You remember that moment you feel your child’s body temperature and it feels slightly high and you almost on autopilot start to panic and start looking for what to give that child to make the fever come down? Yeah, we’ve all been there, and it’s not a pretty sight. Some parents are even known to have “feverphobia”, they can bear any other thing except for a fever. A high temperature can be quite worrying for parents and carers, but most children recover with no problems after a few days.
Fever remains the most common concern that sends both parents and children aged between 6 months and 5 years to the hospital. Fever is usually caused by a minor viral infection, such as a cough or cold and can be treated safely at home if handled properly.
We know the thought of fever being a good thing is hard to imagine, but in most cases, fever is a good thing. Fever is a defense against infection and simply means the body is doing what it should be doing. Your child’s body is raising its temperature to kill the germs. That still doesn’t mean that fever doesn’t indicate a more serious illness. Knowing what to look out for when your child has fever can make dealing with fever a lot easier.
Causes of fever in children
- Viral infections, like influenza
- Bacterial infections, such as scarlet fever
- Some medications
- Inflammatory diseases which are usually rare
- Drug misuse/abuse
Symptoms of fever in children
Most children with a fever usually:
- feel sweaty
- are warm to the touch (especially around the forehead, back, or stomach)
- feel uncomfortable
- are restless
- exhibit changes in sleeping or eating habits,
- stay quiet
- cry a lot
Older children that can speak may complain of
- feeling hotter or colder than others in the room who feel comfortable,
- body aches,
- a headache
- sleeping more or having difficulty sleeping,
- poor appetite.
If you suspect your child has a fever, you should check their temperature with a thermometer.
Safe, cheap digital thermometers are available from your local pharmacy or supermarket
Forehead thermometers shouldn’t be used as they can give inaccurate results.
How to care for a child with a fever at home
It is best to keep a child with a fever at home until the temperature returns to normal and almost all other symptoms are gone.
When caring for a child with fever, work on these 3 leads: getting the temperature back to normal. preventing dehydration, and checking for serious illnesses.
If your child is uncomfortable, here are some ways to relieve symptoms:
- If your child is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, ask the doctor or pharmacist if you should give a children’s oral rehydration solution
- Make sure your child gets plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration and breastfeed more often if you’re still breastfeeding
- Let the child get plenty of rest
- Do not force feed your child, let them eat what they want, when they want it
- Do not give aspirin
- Do not cover them up with too many clothing at once
- You may use ibuprofen based on your doctor’s recommendation
- Do not use cold baths to bring the fever down, it actually doesn’t work
- Check on your child during the night for any other symptoms
When to call or visit the doctor
Sometimes, even after doing all you can, it is best to take your child to a hospital for a proper checkup. It is also necessary for you to take your child to a doctor if in addition to the fever, your child:
- Is younger than 3 months old with a rectal temperature of 38C or higher
- If your 3 to 6 months old child has had a fever for more than 24 hours
- If your 1-2 years old child has had a fever for more than 24 hours
- The soft spot on your child’s skull is bulging
- Has severe diarrhea or vomits continuously
- Has a fever that triggers seizures
- Has a fever and a purple or red rash
- Shows signs of dehydration
- Breathing is shallow, rapid, or difficult
- Your child is at special risk for serious infections. This includes children with blood or immune disorder or any child who has not received the routine immunizations
- Is going in and out of consciousness
Fevers are almost unavoidable. The best you can do is to make sure your child is comfortable until the fever passes or a doctor intervenes.
Also, try focusing on how your child looks, feels, and acts rather than on what the thermometer says. Sometimes, letting the fever run its course may actually help your child’s body fight the underlying infection.