Fever phobia

By: Dr. Melissa King

So, Audrey and Ethan both had a summer virus recently, first Ethan one week and then Audrey the next. Interestingly they were acting ok – drinking, eating, and playful. The only major symptoms were fever – spiking up to 102.6 oF and fussiness when the fever would spike. Audrey complained of some headaches off and on, but that was really it! (Well, ok, if I am to be completely honest, maybe their activity levels were down a bit and instead of seeing that as a problem I may have savored the rest just a little bit.) But they were drinking ok, peeing ok, not having trouble breathing, not vomiting, and no diarrhea. I kind of enjoyed the increased snuggles and cuddles. At least now looking back I didJ

But the fevers!!

I must admit that when I see the thermometer from taking my child’s temperature rise above 102.5oF it makes me a bit squeamish. I seem to go more into mom mode and I have to remind myself to go back into doctor mode.  I do not want to suffer from fever phobia… and I do not want you to suffer from it either.

Fever phobia – the fear of fevers… dun…da.. Dun.. dun… duuuuunnnn!

Let me dispel your fears.

1.)    Fevers are a natural physiological response by your body to infection and inflammation. We consider a fever to be a temperature above 100.4oF. As one article put it, “a fever is not a haphazard response but a well designed weapon that the body uses to fight infection.”Fevers will stimulate your body’s immune system and decrease the ability of many microorganisms to grow. A fever serves as a way for your body to heal itself.

2.)    A child with a normal neurological system will not generate temperatures high enough to be harmful or lethal. (Unless they are left in a hot car or enclosed space or they are dehydrated, which leads to hyperthermia, a temperature elevation that is different from fever.) Fever will not cause brain damage and it does not help us to differentiate between a bacterial infection (which you would treat with antibiotics) and a viral infection (which you would not treat with antibiotics.) Although there are such things as “fever seizures” or febrile seizures, preventing a fever with medicine does not reduce the occurrence of these seizures. (That would be too simple and helpful to parents everywhere if it did!)

3.)    Rather than paying attention to a number, pay attention to your child. Encourage fluids to drink because fevers can cause them to lose water from their body, a risk for dehydration. Pay attention to how they are acting and how often they are peeing. Provide fluids from lots of sources, water (or pedialyte or formula depending on child’s age), fruits, and soups. Small frequent sips are the best option. Popsicles can be great too!

4.)    If you need to treat their fever because they are uncomfortable or not drinking, give them either acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the appropriate dose and interval. Do not automatically give both together or alternate unless specifically directed by your doctor. Studies have shown that even in children with febrile seizures, aggressive fever management does not show consistent benefit and could potentially cause harm.

5.)    See your doctor if your child’s fever lasts more then 3-4 days, they are having trouble breathing, not peeing very often, develop a rash, have vomiting or diarrhea.

6.)    If your child is under the age of 3 months and develops a fever go straight the children’s emergency department and disregard this information until your child is older.

7.)    For children who have underlying medical complications and even everyone else, review this information with your doctor, as they know you and your child best!

Best of luck with the return to school and the sharing of all of those germs and illness! Wash hands frequently and stay safe!

By: Melissa King, DO “Dr. Mom Sqaud”

Dr. King is a general pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and the mother of two kids. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. King blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. King!

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