Parents would love to wrap their children in virtual “bubble wrap” to protect them from all hurt, illness and troubles, but the reality is that all kids will get hurt, get sick, get colds, and get a fever. At New Canaan Pediatrics, we understand that, especially when little ones get a fever, parents get worried. We are parents ourselves!
Should you give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen? What if the temperature doesn’t go down? When should you call our office? When should you go to the emergency room? How high does the fever have to go before it becomes dangerous? New Canaan Pediatrics is here to explain fever protocol and help you avoid falling into fever phobia.
Why do we run a fever?
Elevating temperature is the body’s way of fighting an infection, such as the flu. A fever indicates that the immune system is doing its job to fight invading viruses and bacteria. When the body elevates temperature, it decreases the ability of viruses and bacteria to reproduce and causes white blood cells to replicate to fight infection. A fever may shorten the duration of the illness.
What is “normal?”
The standard normal body temperature is considered to be 98.6°F. But in actuality, normal is a range, anywhere from 97°F to 99°F. When a person’s body temperature becomes elevated to 100.4°F or higher, they are considered to have a fever.
What is “Fever Phobia?”
Fever Phobia is “unrealistic and exaggerated misconceptions” about fever, including the thought that nearly any fever can cause seizures or serious neurological complications.
Fevers in a generally healthy child are not a danger, merely a symptom of illness or infection. Having fever phobia can result in overdosing your child to achieve a “normal” temperature. Medications properly used can reduce a fever by 2-3 degrees. If you’ve given your child Tylenol, Motrin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, do not give your child a cold or cough medicine that also contain these ingredients, as this will double dose them; check the label or call our office if you have questions. Do not give your child aspirin.
Fight fever phobia by using an accurate digital thermometer to measure your child’s temperature and understanding that low-grade and moderate fevers, any temperature up to 104˚F, will not cause any type of neurological side effect.
So what should I do when my child runs a fever?
If your child over three months of age has a fever of 100.4°F to 102.2°F but is playing and eating, it’s not necessary to administer medication.
When your child has a temperature in the range of 100.4°F to 102.2°F with other concerning symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy or nausea, administer the recommended dosage of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Call our office as soon as possible when your infant under 3 months of age is running a temperature of 100.4˚F or higher.
Call our office when your child older than 3 months:
- has a temperature in the range of 102.2˚F to 104˚F
- when a fever has lasted more than three days
- when the fever does not respond to ibuprofen or acetaminophen within 2 hours
- when your child has neck stiffness or confusion.
Besides pain relievers, what can I do to make my child more comfortable?
Time and sleep are typically the best ways to resolve a mild fever, letting your child’s immune system do battle with the infection. Be sure your child under the age of one year is drinking lots of breastmilk or formula. Older children should take in plenty of water, Pedialyte or warm (not hot) clear broth.
Turn off screens to encourage your child to sleep.
As parents, we want to make our kids feel better as quickly as possible. Fortunately, fevers are most often minor and will usually go away within a day or two with minimal treatment.
When you have questions about fevers or other symptoms, message your New Canaan pediatrician through your portal or call 203-972-4250. We are always happy to help.