Understanding Fevers and Why They are Not All Bad
We learn from an early age that a normal and healthy body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. Fevers provide excellent insight into how our bodies are feeling. When a fever is elevated, it lets us know our bodies are fighting off illness. Yet when a child has a high fever, it can be downright scary. Logically, parents are quick to do whatever they can to bring it down so the child can feel better.
The widespread belief is that children should maintain a normal temperature at all times. According to a study published in the journal, Pediatrics, 91% of the parents surveyed felt a fever could cause harmful effects. In addition, 89% of parents treated fevers with products such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen before the temperature reached 102 degrees.
There is a very common phobia associated with fevers. The most significant fear is that high fevers, if left untreated, can lead to febrile seizures, brain damage and even death. Fever is not the illness; it is a physiologic indicator of an illness. There is no evidence that a fever worsens the course of an illness or that it can cause long-term neurological problems, including febrile seizures, brain damage and death.
How Fevers Help
Fevers help our bodies fight off infection by slowing the growth and reproduction of bacteria and viruses. Fevers also stimulate white blood cell production, furthering the healing process. Many illness-causing microbes grow best at a normal body temperature. A high temperature actually slows the microbes’ ability to reproduce. Some research suggests that letting a fever run its’ course may reduce the severity of illnesses such as the flu or a cold.
Does this mean that parents should stop administering medicine to their children when they have a fever? The answer is no. There is still a place for fever reducers. However, it is important to let the body try to fight the illness before intervening with medication.
Fever Tips for Parents
- Fever reducers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen should be administered only if the child is uncomfortable.
- Avoid cough and cold medications that contain a fever reducer because of the increased risk of an unintentional overdose when both medications are administered simultaneously.
- Never use a teaspoon for administering medication to a child.
- Choose the correct medication dosage based on weight and not their age or height.
- Do not wake a sleeping child to give a fever reducer.
- Focus on keeping the child hydrated.
We understand the fear that can come from having a child with a high fever and we are here to help. If your child has a fever, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric providers. In addition, keep a written record of their fever as well as when and how much of any medications were given. Bring this record to the appointment. Finding the cause of the illness is a top priority for us, as it will help us get your child back to feeling better sooner.