Monday, February 28, 2011

Childhood Fevers

Did you see Good Morning America this morning? They did a segment on childhood fevers that I found very informative, and as a mom, felt the need to share.

Experts say, for children older than six months old, having a fever may be a good thing. A fever in and of itself is not dangerous, it's actually a sign of a strong immune system. While fevers may feel uncomfortable for some kids, it typically means that their body is fighting off an underlying sickness. The most common include ear infections, the common cold, and the flu. But unless a child has accompanying symptoms like a cough, runny nose, or vomiting that might suggest one of these illnesses, it may be better to hold off on trying to treat the fever.

On that note, I think a lot of parents out there don't even fully understand what exactly a fever is, while many believe it's just any tempature measuring over 98.6°F, medically, a fever is defined as a temperature is at or above one of these levels:
  • 100.4 °F (38 °C) measured in the bottom (rectally)
  • 99.5 °F(37.5 °C) measured in the mouth (orally)
  • 99 °F (37.2 °C) measured under the arm (axillary)
Something I had always heard, and was a little paranoid about, was that you should take your child to the doctor at 103, because seasures can start at 104... Well according to GMA, that is not the case, they clame brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6 °F (42 °C). Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105 °F unless the child is overdressed or trapped in a hot place... And even then, only about 4 percent of children experience febrile seizures with high fevers. 

On that note they say that the most important thing is to make your child comfortable and let the fever run its course... Which pretty much mimics what i've been told by my daughter's doctors every time I take her in for a 101-102 degree temperature. GMA says "Make sure they're hydrated", and to make sure they're eating and drinking. It's very easy for children to get dehydrated when they are sick or have a fever, so getting liuids in them any way possible is good, GMA suggests popsickles, juice, water are greak ways to keep little ones hydrated.

They say,when trying to lower a fever:
  • Do NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
  • Remove excess clothing or blankets. The room should be comfortable, not too hot or cool. Try one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket for sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
  • A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given -- otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
  • Do NOT use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature.
They they say some guidelines for taking medicine to lower a fever are:
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help reduce fever in children and adults. Sometimes doctors advise you to use both types of medicine.
  • Take acetaminophen every 4 - 6 hours. It works by turning down the brain's thermostat.
  • Take ibuprofen every 6 - 8 hours. DO NOT use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.
  • Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to a child unless your child's doctor tells you to.
  • Know how much you or your child weighs, and then always check the instructions on the package.
  • In children under age 3 months, call your doctor first before giving medicines.
Although they do point out, that if a fever "persists above 103 degrees" or continues to make a child uncomfortable even with at-home treatments, a doctors appointment is probably warranted. They say you should call a doctor right away if your child:
  • Is younger than 3 months old and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher
  • Is 3 -12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F (39 °C) or higher
  • Is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 - 48 hours
  • Is older and has a fever for longer than 48 - 72 hours
  • Has a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable
  • Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, or cough
  • Has been having fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they are not very high
  • Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis
  • Recently had an immunization
  • Has a new rash or bruises appear
  • Has pain with urination
  • Has trouble with the immune system (chronic steroid therapy, after a bone marrow or organ transplant, spleen was removed, is HIV-positive, or is being treated for cancer)
  • Has recently traveled to a third world country
Call 911 if you or your child has a fever and:
  • Is crying and cannot be calmed down (children)
  • Cannot be awakened easily or at all
  • Seems confused
  • Cannot walk
  • Has difficulty breathing, even after their nose is cleared
  • Has blue lips, tongue, or nails
  • Has a very bad headache
  • Has a stiff neck
  • Refuses to move an arm or leg (children)
  • Has a seizure

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