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Navigating Fever in Children: A Comprehensive Guide



If you’re the parent of young children, you know that it can be hard and scary to navigate all of the choices to be made surrounding their health. In particular, when your child is feeling under the weather, it can be hard to know how serious your child’s sickness is. 


When it comes to sickness, one of the greatest concerns that most parents have is fever. What constitutes a fever in children? How do you treat your child’s fever? When should you be concerned about fever? If you are a parent, these questions and more can plague you when your child is feeling under the weather. We know what that feels like, and in this blog, we want to help you feel more confident and secure as you navigate your child’s fever. 


What is fever? 

For starters, you should know what fever is and what causes it. A fever is the body’s response to infection and can be observed as a temporary increase in the body’s temperature. Each person’s normal body temperature differs slightly, so your child’s normal body temperatures can range anywhere from 97 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For adults, a fever is considered any body temperature over 100.4ºF. However, in children, the temperature which constitutes a fever changes depending on their age.


In general, fevers normally can go away on their own and should not be a major cause of concern. However, in certain cases, such as with infants or immunocompromised children, fevers can be more serious and should be treated with the proper care and attention.


How can I treat a fever at home?

As previously mentioned, most fevers will go away on their own. However, there are plenty of ways you can make your child more comfortable and quicken their healing process at home!


Acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Pain relief medication can be used to reduce and eventually break fever. Make sure to read the label of whatever medication you administer to your child, and follow the dosage recommendations on the bottle. If you are attempting to administer medicine to a child 2 years of age or younger, please contact your provider before doing so. Additionally, do NOT give aspirin to your child or teen! This has been linked to a serious illness called Reye Syndrome, which causes swelling in the liver and brain.


Hydration

One of the effects of fever is that the body has a harder time retaining water. For that reason, offer your child plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. If your child does enjoy drinking water, then have them drink plenty of water, as water is almost always the easiest and best way to stay properly hydrated. If your child doesn’t want to drink water, a great alternative would be an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte or a similar store brand. These drinks replenish electrolytes in the body and encourage proper rehydration- and kids are usually more excited to drink something that tastes good, as opposed to water! You can also offer your child water-based snacks, such as gelatin or popsicles, if they still aren’t getting enough fluids. 


Rest

To help your child recover from any illness, it’s important that they get plenty of rest! Sleep is the best rest your child can get while they have a fever; during sleep, the body releases substances called cytokines which attach themselves to sites of inflammation and aid the body’s immune system in fighting infection. 


If your child is having trouble sleeping, simply resting also promotes healing. This is a great time to allow your child to relax and enjoy some of their favorite sedentary activities, such as watching movies, reading, or coloring while they sit on the couch or in bed. For your child to recover, it is crucial that they refrain from strenuous activity, such as sports or exercise.


Keep your child comfortable

When running a fever, your child will most likely experience some uncomfortable symptoms, such as headache, body aches, sweating or chills, and dehydration. To help alleviate the pain and discomfort of these symptoms, you want to keep your child as comfortable as possible! The following activities can help your child manage the symptoms of fever:

  • Dress them lightly: With fever, your child may fluctuate between feeling hot and feeling cold. However, By dressing your child in lightweight clothing, you allow them to feel cool when they get too hot. If your child starts to feel cold, they can always cover up with a light blanket; however, be sure to pay attention to how your child is feeling, and make sure they don’t get too hot, as this may slow down the recovery process. 

  • Cool compress: To help with headache, you may offer a cool compress for your children to keep on their head for as long as their headache persists. Not only will this help alleviate the intensity of your child’s headache, but a cool compress on your child’s head, wrist, or groin can work to lower the entire body’s temperature. 

  • Lukewarm bath: Give your child an opportunity to cool off with a bath! Be sure not to make the bath too hot or too cold, as this can actually decelerate your child’s healing process. A tepid bath is perfect because it allows your child to feel cooler without drastically dropping their body temperature, and it can also temporarily ease any muscle aches or fatigue. 


When is it time to call the doctor?

Whether or not you should seek professional medical care when your child has a fever depends on a few different factors.


With most children, fever should not cause alarm as long as your child is still responsive. If your child exhibits any extreme lethargy, seizures, vomiting, sore throat, ear pain, or other severe symptoms alongside their fever, contact your provider. 


At the end of the day, you know your child better than anyone. It never hurts to take extra precautions in regards to your child’s health– if you are unsure of whether or not your child fits one of the above descriptions, you may consider scheduling an appointment or calling your doctor for their opinion. Additionally, if your child is immunocompromised or chronically ill in any way, it is always best to take extra precautions when making decisions about their health. 


Can I prevent fever?

Realistically, there is no foolproof way to prevent your child from ever getting sick or developing a fever. However, there are a few simple habits you can teach your child to minimize the likelihood of your child getting sick and developing a fever!


Wash those hands!

Did you know that according to the CDC, regular hand washing can decrease the risk of respiratory illnesses in the general population by 16–21%? By modeling proper handwashing for your children, you help instill a habit in them that will help them prevent illness for the rest of their lives. As a general rule, you should wash your hands before you eat, after using the restroom, before and after handling food, and after being in a crowded or public space, such as on public transportation or at the grocery store. To properly clean your hands, you should wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice!


If you are in a situation where you need to wash your hands but don’t have access to soap and running water, hand sanitizer is a great alternative! Try to carry hand sanitizer with you wherever you go. You can also find hand sanitizer keychains that are perfect for young children to keep on their backpacks while they are at school!


Don’t share food and drinks

Sharing food and drinks practically transports bacteria and germs from one person to another. To keep your child healthy, teach them not to share their food or drinks with their classmates, friends, siblings, or even with you!


Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

A common misconception among kids (and their parents!) is that when you cough or sneeze, you should do so into your hands. However, this is not the case! If you sneeze or cough into your hands and then do not wash them, you are effectively spreading your germs onto anything you touch. Instead, you should cough or sneeze into your elbow! This way, if you are not able to immediately wash your hands, you decrease the likelihood of spreading your germs to others. 


Teaching your children this habit also helps them to be conscientious of others. You can teach them that covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze helps keep their friends from getting their germs, and it keeps everyone happy and healthy! 


Avoid touching your face

Your nose, mouth, and eyes are the main routes that bacteria takes to get into your body. When you rub those parts of your face, you increase your risk of transferring bacteria from your environment. Kids are especially prone to touching their face; help your child to remember this through gentle reminders and through modeling this habit for them. 


We know that, as parents, you want the best for your child. We also understand that, while fever usually isn’t a big deal, it can become serious if unattended and improperly treated. If you are ever in doubt, be sure to contact your child’s pediatric provider with any questions, concerns, or treatment advice you may need. 



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