It’s starting….fever, fever, fever season and lots of concerned parents, so figured it was a good time to talk about fevers….AGAIN.
Remember that fever is simply a symptom that your body’s immune system is working, and in most cases, in children, it is fighting a viral infection. We docs call a fever a temperature above 100.4 degrees…but I do realize that day care and schools will send your child home when they have a temp above 99.5 degrees ( in some cases even lower). Some parents “explain” to me that their child’s body temperature is always lower than 98.6 degrees so a 99.9 degree temperature is abnormal for them….I’m just saying.
The first thing to try and remember is that the thermometer is simply showing you a number and that the number should not scare you…it is only a number and a higher number does NOT necessarily mean that your child is any sicker. Some children do tend to have a higher temperature with an illness than another, and even in the same family. Again, the number should not make you concerned that one of your children is sicker than another…it is still just a fever.
Parents always ask…”what degree of fever is dangerous, and when do I go to the hospital?” The number that registers on the thermometer should not be the deciding factor as to how sick your child is. They will look and feel worse with a higher temperature ( as do you when you are sick), but the important thing is to always look at their color (never dusky or blue), how they are breathing (you do breath faster and more shallow with a higher body temperature, but do not appear to be in any distress), and if they are hydrated (you do need more fluids when you are running a fever). If all of this seems to be okay, the best thing to do is treat the fever with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Once their temperature comes down a bit, and that may not be 98.6, look at your child again…children with lower temperatures typically “perk up” for a bit and may play or eat and drink for awhile, until their fever returns and they look pathetic again. I would always check with my doctor before heading to the ER just because of a fever.
Parents also worry about their child having a seizure due to a fever…and this is true some children may have a febrile seizure. But, they can have a seizure with a temperature of 100.8 or 104.2…it does not seem to be the higher the temperature causes a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures do seem to “run in families” and they are also most common during the toddler years. (see another post on this).
So… as we are getting into sick season make sure you have an acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosing chart handy and always dose your child’s medications based on their weight and not age. I would also make sure to have a “working” thermometer, and I prefer a rectal thermometer for children under 12 months of age. Rectal temps are really easy to take and in my experience far more accurate (when I am really concerned if a child has a fever) than a tympanic or temporal thermometer.
Be ready and relax….it is just a fever and having an anxious parent is not going to make your child feel better any faster.