I’d dare say that every parent has had to deal with a child with a fever at some point. And for first-time parents that fever can be a stressful circumstance. It seems that most parents are afraid of fevers. As soon as one is detected they are quick to “get it down,” call the doctor, or use Tylenol or another fever-reducing medicine.
What is a fever?
Did you know that a fever isn’t actually an illness. It’s a symptom. It is the body’s ways of “turning up the thermostat” to help the body fight off some sort of “bug” that has infested it. In fact, a child with a fever is an indication that their body is protecting itself.
Inflammation and fever help clear the body of unwanted “gunk.” When bad bacteria or a virus has invaded the body, it has done so because the body has provided the right conditions. When those unwelcome guests are detected, the body instinctively knows that a higher temperature will create an inhospitable environment that will kill the bad stuff. Thus the fever is actually the body’s way of healing.
If you have a child with a fever and you rush to get rid of that high temperature, however, the bad stuff can take hold again. This prolongs the illness by keeping the enemy around and giving them opportunities to multiply and spread. This means that, unfortunately, many good-meaning parents are prolonging the sickness by trying to get rid of the fever.
So what do you do if you have a child with a fever?
Every situation and child is unique, so I hate giving any sort of definitive answer. But in our house if we see our child with a fever we monitor it and let it run its course. I try and make my daughter comfortable. Give lots of hugs. Make sure she’s well rested and nourished.
But my child is miserable!
When it comes down to it you should always follow your instincts. If the fever is really high, definitely talk to your healthcare provider. But keep in mind that medication like Tylenol and ibuprofen are not that safe (and are actually the top two causes of liver failure in this country). There is also concern about parents giving the right dosage. As researcher Janice E. Sullivan, MD of the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
The possibility that parents will either not receive or not understand dosing instructions, combined with the wide array of formulations that contain these drugs, increases the potential for inaccurate dosing or overdosing. (source)
In fact, researchers say acetaminophen is the most common single ingredient involved in emergency room visits for medication overdoses in children. (Although, the majority of those overdoses are the result of unsupervised ingestion.) (source)
That’s not to say that utilizing the benefits of our modern medicine is always bad. But they should be used in extreme circumstances rather than the “go to” for fever reduction and pain relief.
Child with a fever: When to be concerned
Generally a fever is just part of life… one of the many inconveniences we get to endure as humans. But there are instances where a fever should not be ignored. (Make sure you are keeping track of your child’s temperature. This is my favorite thermometer to do the job.)
If your child’s fever lasts more than 48 hours or is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, definitely seek help from a medical professional. Other symptoms to be careful of:
- When their fever is accompanied by a cough that produces yellow, green, tan or bloody mucous.
- When accompanied by a severe headache, neck stiffness, drowsiness and vomiting. This is a medical emergency – go to the Emergency Room immediately.
- When fevers come and go, you have night sweats and swollen lymph nodes.
- When a mild fever comes and goes along with sore throat and tiredness.
- When accompanied by a sore throat and headache for more than 48 hours.
- When accompanied by severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
- When accompanied by an earache.
- When your child may have been exposed to high temperatures outside and you cannot get their temperature down after attempting cool down measures. – This is an emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately (source)
Keep your cool when your kid gets warm…
Nobody like to see their child uncomfortable, but sometimes the best action is to simply provide extra love, lots of hugs, rest, and proper nutrition so your child’s body can do its thing. The human body is amazing, and far too often we get in the way of the natural healing process. So while you shouldn’t ignore your child’s fever, you mostly likely do not need to medicate it.
What do you think?