Most of the time, a fever doesn’t indicate a serious problem. However, it can be alarming and frightening if a child’s body temperature increases dramatically. Oftentimes, fever is the body’s way of fighting infections. Although not all fevers need treatment, a high fever can make children very uncomfortable, enabling the need for medical treatment or fever reducing medications.
Facts About Fever
A fever occurs when the body’s internal thermostat increases the body’s temperature beyond its normal levels. This organic thermostat is located in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain which controls the body’s temperature; it also sends signals to the body to keep the body temperature at an optimal level.
Normally, the body’s temperature slightly changes throughout the day. Usually, the temperature is lower in the morning and a bit higher at night. It also varies when kids play, exercise, and run around.
However, there are cases where the hypothalamus resets the body in an elevated temperature as a response to illness, infection, and other causes. In this way, the body is able to fight microorganisms that cause infections. In addition, this makes the body an uninhabitable place for the germs, preventing their growth and expansion.
Causes of Fever
Most fevers in children are caused by common infections and are not serious.
- Viral infections – These are the most common causes of fever. Viral infections are a result of several common conditions such as flu, colds, coughs, and diarrhea. However, sometimes viral infections can lead to more serious problems.
- Bacterial infections – Although less common when compared to viral infections, bacterial infections can also cause a fever. Serious medical conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis, kidney, and urine infections are caused by bacterial infections.
Signs to Be Cognizant of When Monitoring Fever
Just like many other medical conditions, fever can be much more severe in children when compared to adults. There is also a unique set of parameters that must be observed in the onset of fever in a child. If symptoms become severe, hospitalization can becoming increasingly likely to combat the fever or underlying condition. Of course, if you feel as though hospitalization or medical attention is necessary, you should contact your pediatrician or physician to discuss available treatment options.
If the child is under 3 months of age and has a rectal temperature of over 100.4 F, this might indicate the need for serious medical attention. Coupled with this, if the fever persists for more than a single day at over 101 F, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Associated symptoms of fever include dehydration, diarrhea, rash, dry mouth, and chills, which all point toward fever. If the fever triggers seizures, than it is also advised to seek emergency help. Remember to bathe your child in lukewarm water, as this can help reduce the fever. Do not under any circumstances use hot or cold water.
There is a tremendous amount of associated symptoms related to the onset of a fever in children, each of them requiring a degree of understanding on behalf of the parent in order to properly diagnosis and treat said fever. Working in conjunction with your pediatrician can help narrow down underlying causes and potential risk factors.
In an effort to combat infection, the body drastically increases its body temperature to kill the bacteria or virus, making the affected areas of the body uninhabitable for the infection.
In children over 4 months old, the diagnosis measures change when detecting fever. The first step is to take the child's temperature. There are multiple ways of doing this, each method being implemented for a particular fever criterion. Oral detection of fever is administered in children over 4 to 5 months old, and an oral pacifier or thermometer is used. Temperatures over 100.4 F are considered to be fevers.
Another common method of fever detection is by ear. In children over 6 months old, a temporal artery thermometer is implemented, and this is an easy way of getting quick results. It can, however, be less accurate than the aforementioned method.
The most accurate method of detection is a rectal temperature reading. This reading is the most effective method in diagnosing fever, and it has the lowest probability of instrument bias or failure.
The least common form of temperature readings is by the armpit. Readings indicative of a fever are also seen as 100.4 F or above in children.
Treatment becomes tricky when the fever is between specific temperatures. For example, if the fever is above 102 F but below 105 F, then specific measures should be taken. These are all things that you must discuss with your pediatrician in order to gain a complete understanding of your child's unique symptoms and causes.
It's also important to monitor how much rest is attained. The ability to remain dry is also key. Remove any linens that have become moist, and manage chills with an open window or fan. The fluctuation of hot to cold is normal in fever, and the best way to alleviate symptoms are to treat specific factors, one at a time.
What You Should Do if Your Child has a Fever
Generally, a child with a fever may look unwell, irritable, or may be flushed. However, most of the time, the fever is not caused by a serious condition, and the temperature goes down quickly.
A child with a serious infection may get worse in spite of efforts to bring the temperature level down. Other worrying symptoms may also be experienced by the child. These include drowsiness, pains, breathing problems, convulsions, and headaches. If a child’s condition is getting worse, it is best to seek medical help. Also, check the child’s temperature two or three times during the night to make sure that the child is not developing a serious infection.
Below are some things you can do if your child has a fever:
- Administer paracetamol – Paracetamol can help lower your child’s temperature. It can be given in a liquid form, a chewable, or a melting oral tablet. Aside from lowering temperature, paracetamol can ease discomfort, pain, aches, and headaches. However, paracetamol cannot treat the underlying cause of the fever. Aside from paracetamol, ibuprofen can also help improve pain and fever.
- Keep your child well hydrated – When a child has a fever, dehydration may develop, since they will be irritable and may not want to consume fluids. It is important to encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Remove extra layers of clothes – If the room is at a normal temperature, it is better to not cover your child with extra clothes. This will only lead to overheating or shivering. Let your child’s body have some air and release the heat on their own. A gentle flow of air would be helpful.
- Do not sponge bath your child with cold water – This technique will trap the heat in the deeper areas of the body and will decrease heat loss.
- Provide over-the-counter medications - Certain over-the-counter medications should not be used, unless green lit by your pediatrician. Ibuprofen for example, should be discussed with your doctor before implementation. Aspirin should also be used with care. This is because aspirin can cause bleeding, especially in individuals suffering from a low platelet count. Aspirin also can have an effect on how quickly your blood clots.
- Do not treat chills in the normal manner - Remember that chills are not treated in the same way they are in healthy individuals. The onset of chills in a child with fever will likely make the child want to bundle up with blankets. The truth is that this only retains the heat of the fever, preventing its expulsion. Take the blankets off, and put a fan behind the child. It may not be the most comfortable feeling in the world, but it will help heat escape from their body.
Fevers in children can be particularly worrisome. However, most of the time, fevers are due to a common illness, and there are simple steps you can take to mitigate the fever. If a fever is very high and does not improve easily, be sure to contact a physician immediately.