Fighting Your Child’s Fever
An interview with David Tejeda, M.D., Medical Director, Family Health Center
Discovering that your child has a fever is always worrisome, but it may not be as serious as you think it is.
Cause for Alarm?
Contrary to popular belief, a fever itself isn’t dangerous. It’s merely a symptom of an illness and occurs when the body’s temperature rises as it battles infection. In fact, there’s evidence that fevers actually help the body and aid the immune system.
What Is a Fever?
With so many ways to measure temperature, it can be difficult to know when your child has a fever. If you’re using an ear or rectal thermometer, anything above 100.4° Fahrenheit (38° C) is considered a fever.
If you’re using an oral thermometer, that number changes to 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° C).
If your child is an infant or toddler, you’re probably checking his/her temperature under his/her arm. In that case, most doctors consider 99.5° Fahrenheit (37.4° C) a fever.
Because of these differing limits, it’s important to tell your pediatrician how you measured your child’s temperature when you consult with him/her.
Fighting the Fever
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and a study in the March issue of Pediatrics, fighting your child’s fever is not going to affect how he/she fights his/her illness. The goal of giving medication is not necessarily to get a child’s temperature back to normal, but to make him/her feel better.
Like most doctors, Tejeda recommends ibuprofen and acetaminophen: “Some children respond better to one medication over the other, but most respond to either within an hour.”
Keep in mind that dosage is depends on weight. Children should get 10 to 15 milligrams of acetaminophen per kilogram of body weight every four to six hours. If you’re using ibuprofen, dose 10 milligrams per kilogram every six to eight hours.
Infant, child, and adult medications have different formulations. If you’re unsure what formulation you have, check the active-ingredients list, which states the drug to milliliter ratio.
“People often give too little medication to children, but overdosing is more concerning,” explains Tejeda. Too much acetaminophen can have toxic effects on the liver, while ibuprofen overdosing can cause gastritis, kidney problems, and intestinal inflammation.
Baths also can help bring a fever down. Use tepid water or a sponge bath, as cold water causes shivering, which raises body temperature.
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