The next time your child runs a temperature, it may ease your anxiety to keep in mind that a fever is a good thing. It's the body's natural response to vigorous exertion, hormonal variations and metabolic changes, as well as to infection.
Children generally have higher body temperatures than adults do, and they tend to experience greater daily variations in temperature.
As a child matures, his fevers typically become easier to control. In the meantime, use this review list to boost your confidence?and your home healthcare skills?the next time your child suddenly develops a fever.
Find out what's normal.
Ask your child's healthcare provider what degree of temperature should be cause for concern. Since each child reacts differently to fever-producing ailments, your level of concern should depend on how sick your child acts, not solely on the thermometer reading. Some children spike a high fever in the absence of serious sickness; others experience only a slight fever after developing a full-blown infection.
If a fever causes your child discomfort, appropriate treatment is warranted. If not, treatment may be unnecessary.
Know when to call the doctor.
Any temperature above 106° should be promptly treated. Also call the doctor immediately if any of the following conditions are present:
- a temperature higher than 100° in a baby less than 4 weeks old
- fever above 101° in an infant less than 3 months old
- fever of more than 103° in a child younger than 2
- fever exceeding 105° if recommended home treatment measures fail to adequately reduce the fever
- fever persisting for more than five days.
Check accompanying symptoms.
In the absence of factors listed above, check symptoms such as earache, excessive drowsiness, muscular aches, painful urination, severe cough, skin rash, sore throat, abdominal pain, lethargy or unresponsiveness. If any of these are present, call the doctor.
Provide appropriate care.
Follow instructions given by your physician. You'll likely be told to take your child's temperature; give acetaminophen every three to four hours according to the recommended dosage; provide extra fluids (about 10 percent more fluids for each degree Fahrenheit of temperature elevation); and cool your child by using a fan, lowering the room temperature and avoiding too many clothes and blankets.
Soothe your child with your loving touch and quiet presence. Stay close by as much as possible. Rocking him, giving back rubs or just sitting by his bed will let him know he can rely on you to pray for him and care for him. And that's some of the best medicine of all.
Mother, childbirth educator and author
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