FEVER AND TAKING YOUR CHILD’S TEMPERATURE

  • In healthy kids, fevers usually don't indicate anything serious. Although it can be frightening when your child's temperature rises, fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing — it's often the body's way of fighting off infections. You should not panic and should learn to control fever with medicines at home. It is easy to learn how to correctly take a child's temperature when it's a little higher than usual.


    What Is Fever?

    Fever occurs when the body's internal "thermostat" raises the body temperature above its normal level. Most people's body temperatures even change a little bit during the course of the day: It's usually a little lower in the morning and a little higher in the evening and can fluctuate as kids run around, play, and exercise.
    Researchers believe turning up the heat is the body's way of fighting the germs that cause infections and making the body a less comfortable place for them.


    What Causes Fever?

    It's important to remember that fever by itself is not an illness — it's usually a symptom of an underlying problem. Fever has several potential causes:

    • Infection: Most fevers are caused by infection or other illness. Fever helps the body fight infections by stimulating natural defense mechanisms.
    • Overdressing: Infants, especially newborns, may get fevers if they're overbundled or in a hot environment because they don't regulate their body temperature as well as older children. However, because fevers in newborns can indicate a serious infection, even infants who are overdressed must be evaluated by a doctor if they have a fever.
    • Immunizations: Babies and children sometimes get a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated. Although teething may cause a slight rise in body temperature, it's probably not the cause if a child's temperature is higher than 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius).

    How Do I Know if My Child Has a Fever?

    A gentle kiss on the forehead or a hand placed lightly on your child's skin is often enough to give you a hint that your child has a fever. However, this method of taking a temperature (called tactile temperature) is dependent on the person doing the feeling and doesn't give an accurate measure of temperature.
    Use a reliable thermometer to tell if your child has a fever when his or her temperature is at or above one of these levels:
    • 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) measured orally or by keeping thermometer in the axilla
    Because fevers may rise and fall, a child with fever might experience chills as the body tries to generate additional heat as its temperature begins to rise. The child may sweat as the body releases extra heat when the temperature starts to drop.
    Sometimes kids with a fever breathe faster than usual and may have a higher heart rate. You should visit the doctor if your child is having difficulty breathing, is breathing faster than normal, or continues to breathe fast after the fever comes down.


    Different Types of Thermometers

    Whichever type of thermometer you choose, be sure you know how to use it correctly to get an accurate reading. Keep and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for any thermometer.
    • Digital thermometers usually provide the quickest, most accurate readings. Digital thermometers usually have a plastic, flexible probe with a temperature sensor at the tip and an easy-to-read digital display on the opposite end.
    • Electronic ear thermometers measure the tympanic temperature — the temperature inside the ear canal. Although they're quick and easy to use in older babies and children, electronic ear thermometers aren't as accurate for infants 3 months or younger as digital thermometers and are more expensive.
    • Glass mercury thermometers They should be used with caution, as there is a risk of child biting the glass and spilling or ingesting the mercury
    As any parent knows, taking a squirming child's temperature can be challenging. But it's one of the most important tools doctors have to determine if a child has an illness or infection. The method you choose to take your child's temperature will depend on his or her age and how cooperative your child is.
    If your child is younger than 3 months, you'll get the most reliable reading by using a digital thermometer in the axilla
    If your child is between 3 months to 4 years old, you can use a digital thermometer to take a axillary temperature or an electronic ear thermometer to take the temperature inside the ear canal.
    If your child is 4 years or older, you can usually use a digital thermometer to take an oral temperature if your child will cooperate. However, kids who have frequent coughs or are breathing through their mouths because of stuffy noses might not be able to keep their mouths closed long enough for an accurate oral reading. In these cases, you can use the tympanic method (with an electronic ear thermometer) or axillary method (with a digital thermometer).

    To take an oral temperature: This process is easy in an older, cooperative child.
    • Wait 20 to 30 minutes after your child finishes eating or drinking to take an oral temperature, and make sure there's no toffee in your child's mouth.
    • Place the tip of the thermometer under the tongue and ask your child to close his or her lips around it. Remind your child not to bite down or talk, and to relax and breathe normally through the nose.
    • Wait until you hear the appropriate number of beeps or other signal that the temperature is ready to be read. Write down the number on the screen, noting the time of day that you took the reading.
    To take an axillary temperature: This is a convenient way to take a child's temperature.
    • Remove your child's shirt and undershirt, and place the thermometer under an armpit (it must be touching skin only, not clothing).
    • Fold your child's arm across the chest to hold the thermometer in place.
    • Wait until you hear the appropriate number of beeps or other signal that the temperature is ready to be read. Write down the number on the screen, noting the time of day that you took the reading.
    Whatever method you choose, keep these additional tips in mind:
    • Never take a child's temperature right after a bath or if he or she has been bundled tightly for a while — this can affect the temperature reading.
    • Never leave a child unattended while taking a temperature.


    What to do if child has fever

    • Medication is not always needed to reduce a child’s temperature. In fact, the best reason for giving your child medicine is not to reduce the fever but to relieve associated aches and pains.
    • If your child is fussy or appears uncomfortable, you can give paracetamol(crocin,calpol) or ibuprofen(ibugesic) based on the prescription given by the pediatrician at the last visit. Remember that fever medication will usually temporarily bring the temperature down and it won't treat the underlying reason for the fever. Fever will come back after the effect of medicine has waned away and that is normal. Infants under 3 months old should not be given any medication for fever without being evaluated by a doctor. If your child has any medical problems, check with the doctor to see which medication is best to use.
    • Ibuprofen can be given every 6 to 8 hours, up to 4 times in a 24-hour period. Do not exceed the recommended dose. Be sure to follow instructions on the pamphlet.
    • Paracetamol (such as crocin, calpol, etc and others) can also be given for a fever. Unless your physician says otherwise, parents can give the dose recommended on the package every 4 hours until the child’s temperature comes down. The temperature usually comes down in 1.5 to 2 hours and then rises again, in which case the medication may have to be repeated. It is important not to exceed 5 doses in 24 hours.
    • You can do tepid sponging on the forehead with room temperature water. Using cold water or whole body sponging can lead to shivering and should be avoided.
    • Dress your child in lightweight clothing and cover him or her with a light sheet or blanket. Overdressing and overbundling can prevent body heat from escaping and can cause a temperature to rise.
    • Make sure your child's room is a comfortable temperature — not too hot or too cold.
    • Offer plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration— a fever will cause a child to lose fluids more rapidly. Water, soup, juice are all good choices. Avoid drinks containing caffeine, including colas and tea, because they can cause increased urination.
    • If your child also is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, ask the doctor if you should give an electrolyte (rehydration) solution made especially for kids. You can find these solutions at chemists.
    • In general, let your child eat what he or she wants (in reasonable amounts) but don't force eating if your child doesn't feel like it.
    • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. Staying in bed all day isn't necessary, but a sick child should take it easy.
    • It's best to keep a child with a fever home from school or child care. Most doctors feel that it's safe to return when the temperature has been normal for 24 hours.


    When to visit the Doctor

    The exact temperature that should trigger a visit to the doctor depends on the age of the child, the illness, and whether the child has other symptoms with the fever. Visit your doctor if you have an:

    • infant younger than 3 months with a temperature of 100.° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) or higher
    • older child with a temperature of higher than 102.° Fahrenheit (39° Celsius)
    Visit the doctor if an older child has a fever of less than 102.° Fahrenheit (39° Celsius) but also:
    • refuses fluids or seems too ill to drink adequately
    • has persistent diarrhea or repeated vomiting
    • has any signs of dehydration (urinating less than usual, not having tears when crying, less alert and less active than usual)
    • has a specific complaint (i.e., sore throat or earache)
    • still has a fever after 24 hours (in kids younger than 2 years) or 72 hours (in kids 2 years or older)
    • has recurrent fevers, even if they only last a few hours each night
    • has a rash
    • has pain with urination
    Seek emergency care if your child shows any of the following signs along with a fever:
    • inconsolable crying
    • extreme irritability
    • lethargy and difficulty waking
    • rash or purple spots that look like bruises on the skin (that were not there before the child got sick)
    • blue lips, tongue, or nails
    • infant's soft spot on the head seems to be bulging outward or sunken inwards
    • stiff neck
    • severe headache
    • limpness or refusal to move
    • difficulty breathing that doesn't get better when the nose is cleared
    • leaning forward and drooling
    • seizure
    • abdominal pain

    Fever: A Common Part of Childhood:

    All kids get fevers, and in the majority of cases, most are completely back to normal within a few days. For older infants and children (but not necessarily for infants younger than 3 months), the way they act is far more important than the reading on your thermometer. Everyone gets cranky when they have a fever. This is normal and should be expected.
    But if you're ever in doubt about what to do or what a fever might means, or if your child is acting ill in a way that concerns you even if there's no fever, always visit your doctor for advice.