The word ‘Fever’ strikes fear in the hearts of new parents. We have all heard horror stories about babies who contracted fevers and the results were terrifying.
For more experienced parents the fear has subsided. Your thoughts on fevers will greatly impact your parenting. As a mom who has raised five healthy kids, I can tell you fever is a part of life with children. In researching for this blog entry I have read: “Fever is a monthly occurrence for young children.” “Fever is your child’s body telling you something is not right.” “Fever is the body’s way of dealing with infection.”
Your pediatrician’s greatest concern for fever is in your baby’s first three months of life. One of the major reasons for this is the younger a child the greater the percentage of her body is liquid. As children age their bodies gain greater percentages of bone, muscles, flesh. This helps their body regulate it’s temperature.
Fevers run in the evening. You will notice your baby is warm around dinner time. I encourage you to track your child’s body temperature when he is healthy. Write down a 24 hours record of your baby’s body temperature. Everyone runs at an individual rate. Some kids run at the 98.6 temp., but for most that is an average. Some will run at 97, some at 99. Knowing your individual child’s rate will help you discern if his fever is not normal.
If you believe your baby is warm record the temperature. Loosen her clothing to be sure this is not contributing. Usually if baby is running a temperature she will be fussy, not feeling well. There will be more symptoms than just a fever. Give her liquid to protect against dehydration. 30 minutes later retake the temperature. If there is a notable increase, a point say from 100 F to 101 F, call your pediatrician and ask her opinion.
Of greatest concern is a ‘spiking fever’. A ‘low grade fever’ is common; Baby may be uncomfortable and need extra liquid. The rapidly rising fever is of concern. A spiking fever indicates a major infection. If the fever is rising quickly and continues up contact you pediatrician. Remove baby’s clothing leaving a diaper, encourage liquids, wipe her down with a room temperature cloth. Lying her on a blanket rather than holding her will help lower her body temperature. She will not be happy, but reducing her temperature is important.
Fevers usually run at night and subside in the morning. In the morning your baby’s temperature will usually be normal. If the fever is persisting in the morning call your pediatrician again. This indicates an infection and needs immediate attention.
With older children I would provide consistent liquid and watch them closely. Often they run a fever one night and are fine the next day with no recurrence of the fever. This is with a low grade fever. If you measure the fever every 30 minutes and it continues to rise provide liquid, remove extra clothing and blankets, watch closely. If the fever reaches 102 or higher contact you doctor.
As you know your child better you will develop a feel for how to proceed. You can tell by her behavior how ill she is. You know her best, you can tell if she needs help. This is what they talk about when they say “mothers intuition’. You will just know. When my children were young I grew to the point where I could call the fever numbers without a thermometer by holding the child. I used a thermometer to verify. JUDY
A fever is a temporary increase in your body temperature, often due to an illness. Having a fever is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body.
For an adult, a fever may be uncomfortable, but usually isn’t a cause for concern unless it reaches 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. For infants and toddlers, a slightly elevated temperature may indicate a serious infection.
Fevers generally go away within a few days. A number of over-the-counter medications lower a fever, but sometimes it’s better left untreated. Fever seems to play a key role in helping your body fight off a number of infections.
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You have a fever when your temperature rises above its normal range. What’s normal for you may be a little higher or lower than the average normal temperature of 98.6 F (37 C).
Depending on what’s causing your fever, additional fever signs and symptoms may include:
- Chills and shivering
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- General weakness
Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years might experience febrile seizures. About a third of the children who have one febrile seizure will have another one, most commonly within the next 12 months.
Taking a temperature
To take a temperature, you can choose from several types of thermometers, including oral, rectal, ear (tympanic) and forehead (temporal artery) thermometers.
Oral and rectal thermometers generally provide the most accurate measurement of core body temperature. Ear or forehead thermometers, although convenient, provide less accurate temperature measurements.
In infants, doctors generally recommend taking a temperature with a rectal thermometer.
When reporting a temperature to your or your child’s doctor, give the reading and explain how the temperature was taken.
When to see a doctor
Fevers by themselves may not be a cause for alarm — or a reason to call a doctor. Yet there are some circumstances when you should seek medical advice for your baby, your child or yourself.
An unexplained fever is greater cause for concern in infants and in children than in adults. Call your baby’s doctor if your child is:
- Younger than age 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.
- Between ages 3 and 6 months and has a rectal temperature up to 102 F (38.9 C) and seems unusually irritable, lethargic or uncomfortable or has a temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C).
- Between ages 6 and 24 months and has a rectal temperature higher than 102 F (38.9 C) that lasts longer than one day but shows no other symptoms. If your child also has other signs and symptoms, such as a cold, cough or diarrhea, you might call your child’s doctor sooner based on severity.
There’s probably no cause for alarm if your child has a fever but is responsive — making eye contact with you and responding to your facial expressions and to your voice — and is drinking fluids and playing.
Call your child’s doctor if your child:
- Is listless or irritable, vomits repeatedly, has a severe headache or stomachache, or has any other symptoms causing significant discomfort.
- Has a fever after being left in a hot car. Seek medical care immediately.
- Has a fever that lasts longer than three days.
- Appears listless and has poor eye contact with you.
Ask your child’s doctor for guidance in special circumstances, such as a child with immune system problems or with a pre-existing illness.
Call your doctor if your temperature is 103 F (39.4 C) or higher. Seek immediate medical attention if any of these signs or symptoms accompanies a fever:
- Severe headache
- Unusual skin rash, especially if the rash rapidly worsens
- Unusual sensitivity to bright light
- Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward
- Mental confusion
- Persistent vomiting
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
- Convulsions or seizures