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Heather’s Healthy Hints: Fever is Your Friend

Topic of the week:  Fever is your Friend

One of the most common reasons parents bring their children to the doctor is fever.  While fever can be very scary for parents and children alike, it is important to remember what a fever is and its purpose in maintaining your child’s health.

What is considered a fever?  Temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above are considered a fever.  Temperatures between 98.6 degrees and 100.3 degrees are not considered “low grade fevers.”  These are fluctuations of normal body temperatures, and are no reason to be unduly concerned.

Why do we get fevers?  A fever is an important part of your child’s immune system. It signals the body that there are invaders (bacterial or viral) and sets up the immune system to attack these invaders.

Do high fevers cause permanent damage?  No.  Remember, the fever is helping your child fight off infection.  Fevers DO NOT cause brain damage!!!  A small percentage of children (about 4 %) will develop a condition known as Febrile Seizures, meaning they experience seizures when they get a fever.  These seizures are benign, and besides being frightening to watch, no brain damage is done.

When do I bring the child to the doctor?  For healthy children with no chronic conditions, we typically recommend you bring in your child to our office if he/she runs a fever for 3 days.  As for infants under 2 months of age, any fever should be evaluated immediately in our office or in the emergency room.

As I continue to write this blog, you will hear me repeat this fundamental fact:  Pay attention to how your child looks and acts.  You know him/her better than anyone.  Many children go along happily as they normally would (playing, eating, sleeping) even with a high fever.  Other children look sick, are lethargic, and may have other symptoms.  If your child falls in the first category, treatment of the fever is not warranted.  Remember, the fever is doing its job – fighting off the bacterial or viral invaders in your child’s body.  There is no harm in “watchful waiting” and not breaking out the Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen right away.

If your child seems uncomfortable, you may want give him/her ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  Please call office if you do not know the correct dosage for your child.  It is calculated by weight of the child.  When choosing a medication for your child, remember that infants 1-8 months old may only use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) ever 4-6 hours.  Nine months and up, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may be used every 6-8 hours.  With your physician’s permission, you can alternate these 2 medications every 4 hours as needed.

In closing, please remember that fever is not an illness – it is a physiologic response to help the body fight off foreign invaders.  Although it can be scary for parents, try to take comfort that your child’s body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing in order to return your child to health.

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