Fever, Friend or Foe?

What do you do when your kids get a fever?

As a parent, there are very few things that are scarier than seeing my child sick.

Even though my oldest is about to turn 4 this week I still have vivid memories of the first time he had a fever. We had visited the pediatrician’s office in the morning where he had gotten his 6-month vaccines, as scheduled, and a few hours after we got home, his temperature started to rise. And rise. And RISE.

Do I medicate?

Do I wait?

Is he going to have febrile seizures?

Should I call the pediatrician’s office?

All of these questions were running through my mind as I contemplated what my next step should be. You see, I thought that being an RN and having spent some time doing rotations in a pediatrics floor would have prepared me for such a time as this but, when it comes to my children, it appears that my fears and emotions can easily overpower my capacity to think rationally.

Even though I have become less afraid of dealing with fevers over the last few years of child raising, some of these same questions still cross my mind when the thermometer readings start to rise above normal and I am sure I am not the only one.

Recently, as I was reading through the posts on a  Facebook group focused on child-health, I came across many other parents who were asking these same questions. So, I thought there might be more of us out there that would benefit from a short discussion about fevers in children and how to best manage them.

To get started on this discussion I enlisted the help of my kid’s awesome pediatrician, Dr. Rodrigo Argenal.

According to his practice’s website, Doctor Argenal is a board certified pediatrician with over 14 years of pediatric expertise in hospital and clinic settings. He graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Centro America in San Jose, Costa Rica.  He completed an internship in family practice, before specializing further into Pediatrics at the University of Florida, in 2004. He moved to our area after completing his specialty, and served the local community as a pediatric hospitalist for 5 years before opening his own practice in 2009.  

Here is what Doctor Argenal had to say in response to my questions about fevers:

Vanessa:  Why do kids get fevers?

Dr. Argenal: A fever is a response of the body’s immune system to an infection in order to fight it off and protect itself.  By elevating the body’s temperature, viruses and bacteria have a more difficult time surviving, and the circulation increases to various parts of the body allowing for our defense cells to reach the insulting organisms more readily.

Vanessa: Are all fevers bad?

Dr. Argenal: Generally speaking, a fever is always a good sign that our body is defending itself.  A fever can not cause harm to one’s body.  Sometimes a fever (usually >102.2 F) can lead to a “febrile seizure”. Even under those circumstances, no harm is caused by the fever or the seizure.

Vanessa: When should I medicate my child?

Dr. Argenal: Fever is a temperature of 100.4 F or more taken rectally. Medicate your child if he or she seems uncomfortable from any degree of fever, or if the fever is 102 F or above.

Vanessa:  When should I contact the pediatrician?

Dr. Argenal: You should probably seek medical help if your child has a temperature greater than 102.5 F, or has had any fever for over 3 days, or just doesn’t look good once fever is gone.

Vanessa: Are there any other interventions, besides giving my child medication, that I can do to help lower the fever?

Dr. Argenal: A great way to get a fever down quickly is to mimic your child having a sweat (heat will evaporate off the surface). You can do this by giving your child a bath with lukewarm running water or just wetting his or her skin with a moist towel over and over

 

In addition to lukewarm baths and cool cloths here are a few other non-pharmacological interventions to consider:

  • Remove blankets
  • Remove socks, hats, sweaters, coats, and jackets
  • Cool clothing or no clothing
  • Make sure room temperature is not too high
  • Keep well hydrated (plenty of water, electrolytes popsicles, and ice chips.)

 

If you are still wondering what to do, here is an excellent infographic from the Cleveland Clinic that has been very helpful to me every time I have to deal with fevers at our house.

Parent's Guide to Fever Infographic

 

I hope you have found this discussion about fever in kids helpful. Although your children may not be sick or have fevers right now you might want to pin or save this information as a reference for when you need it. To pin this post, just click on the pin it button over the title picture or at bottom of the page.

 

Additional Resources:

Fever in Children by UpToDate.com Here you will find detailed information about fevers, how to appropriately measure it, how to treat it,  and links to other resources.

Patents and Friends of Argenal Pediatrics: This is a group for all of Dr. Argenal’s patients and friends that want to share questions and experiences regarding child health and related issues. Any general questions and discussions regarding children are welcomed. Dr. Argenal and/or one of his staff will periodically monitor and comment to make sure the discussions have an expert medical perspective.

Dr. A Youtube Channel: Here you will find a few videos by Dr. Argenal on topics related to child-health.

Argenal Pediatrics Website

 

 

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