Dr. Manoj, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Beach Road talks to us about fever, one of the most misunderstood and mistreated conditions, and a major source of anxiety for many parents.
Fever is one of mankind’s oldest disease manifestations, and probably one of the most common reasons why parents fear fever is because of the misconception that high fever can cause brain damage. In a study published in 2012, 90% of parents surveyed were worried about possible brain damage caused by high fever.
There is no evidence that fever itself worsens the course of an illness or that it causes long-term neurologic complications. In general, the primary goal of treating kids with a fever should be to improve their overall comfort rather than focus on the normalisation of body temperature.
The biggest hurdle, we as paediatricians face is the resistance of parents when we try to educate them about fever and to avoid unnecessary prescription of medicines.
The most important things a parent should know about fever:
1. Fever is not a disease; it is only a symptom of an underlying disease, which in all probability is an infection. There are studies suggesting that fever can actually be beneficial in fighting infections.
2. Treating fever will not cure the disease. The aim of treating fever is to reduce the discomfort associated with it.
3. Fever with infections never causes brain damage. Brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6 °F (42 °C). Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105 °F.
I don’t want to give an elaborate discussion on fever, but rather will stress on those aspects of fever treatment which are misunderstood and need to be corrected.
Frequently asked questions about fever
Does my kid actually have a fever?
As a general rule temperatures above the following are considered as fever.
Recorded underarm: Above 37.2o Celcius or 99o Farenheit.
Recorded in the mouth or ear: Above 37.5o Celcius or 99.5o Farenheit.
Recorded in the rectum: Above 38o Celcius or 100.4o Farenheit.3
If my kids fever is really high, does that mean the underlying infection is very serious?
No. High fevers can happen with mild viral infections and vice versa. There is a saying that ‘Treat the child and not the numbers’. You child’s age, overall condition and other symptoms are more important in deciding the treatment.
Medications for fever: Use medications only when your child is having fever and discomfort. A playful child running a fever of 102o F, doesn’t need any treatment. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are the only medicines approved for fever treatment in children. Right dosing is very important. Ibuprofen should only be used for children older than six months. It should not be given to children who are vomiting constantly or are dehydrated.
Is sponging effective?
Along with certain medications as mentioned above, sponging can help a little. Make sure to only use only water at room temperature and never use ice or cold water as it may cause them even more discomfort.
Generally, fever can be treated by taking the above into consideration along with providing regular care. A normal diet, plenty of fluids, light clothing and a comfortable environment are very important. Make sure to look out for other alarming symptoms, and if they occur or if it lasts for more than two days, seek medical attention.
And Don’t panic. Fever is a Friend, not a Foe.