Fever is not an illness itself but it is the sign of an illness.For me, fever in children is like a parental alarm button. Last episode of high fever accompanied by trembling and a lethargic condition, 2-year-old son, was two days ago. Your child’s average body temperature is about 37°C. If your child’s temperature is higher than 37,5-38°C for 24 hours or more, he probably has a fever.For us, mums it is natural to see and feel when our children are unwell.
Children get the fever for all kinds of reasons. Most fevers and the illnesses that cause them last only for a few days. But sometimes a fever will last much longer and might be the sign of an underlying chronic or long-term illness or disease.
Children Fever and High-Temperature Causes
Infections are by far the most common cause of fever in children. In general, fever is nature’s response to infection and can actually help the body fight infection.
Most of these infections are caused by viruses, which are responsible for colds and upper respiratory tract infections, as well as the common infectious diseases of childhood, like chickenpox. These infections don’t last long and usually don’t need to be treated.
Some infections are caused by bacteria and need antibiotics. These include certain ear and throat infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, blood infections and meningitis. Streptococcus can cause a sore throat with fever. If it isn’t treated with antibiotics, this infection can lead to rheumatic fever or heart damage.
There are other less common causes for fever. These include allergic reactions to drugs or vaccines, chronic joint inflammation, some tumors and gastrointestinal diseases like gastroenteritis.
During the course of each day, body temperature goes up and down by up to 1°C. It’s usually lowest in the early hours of the morning, and highest in the late afternoon and early evening.
A high-temperature fever might come on slowly and rise over a few days, or it might rise very quickly. The height of a fever, and how quickly it comes on, usually doesn’t have anything to do with the illness that causes it.
Fever itself is rarely harmful. But the high temperature might make your child feel uncomfortable – he might have chills or shivers when his temperature is rising, and he might sweat when it’s falling. Sometimes he might become mildly dehydrated if he’s losing a lot of fluid due to the fever and not replacing it.
What To Do if a Seizure Occurs
Febrile convulsions are seizures that happen due to the fever. They occur in about 4% of children between the ages of six months and five years. Children outgrow febrile convulsions by the age of 4-5 years. Not all seizures cause jerking movements in the body. Some seizures look more like “passing out.” If your child develops a seizure:
- Put your child on a side.
- Do NOT put anything in your child’s mouth.
- Call 911/or your emergency services number if the seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- If the seizure lasts less than five minutes, call your physician or seek immediate medical attention.
Taking Your Child’s Temperature
You might want to take your child’s temperature if your child is:
- unwell and feels warmer than usual
- irritable and crying
- more sleepy than usual
- in pain
- refusing to drink, or vomiting.
Fevers can be a very scary thing for parents, particularly for first-time moms and dads. Every child will eventually experience a fever, no matter how careful you are.It is important for parents to know what to do when this happens.
Using a thermometer is the best way to check your child’s temperature. Feeling your child’s skin temperature (for example, by putting your hand to her forehead) isn’t always a reliable way of diagnosing a fever.
There are several different ways to take a child’s temperature using a thermometer:
- orally – put a digital thermometer in your child’s mouth under the tongue
- rectally –put the thermometer a little way into your baby’s rectum
- axillary –put the thermometer under your child’s armpit
- aurally – put a digital ear thermometer into your child’s ear; it can be a little inaccurate
- superficially – wiping a device called a temporal artery thermometer across your child’s forehead.
Your GP or child and family health nurse can show you how to take your child’s temperature with a thermometer.
It’s hard to take an oral temperature if your child is under five years because he might not cooperate. If your child has a blocked nose because of a cold, he might find it hard to breathe with his mouth closed.
Here’s how to take an oral temperature:
- Wait five minutes after your child has had a hot or cold drink (or it will affect the temperature).
- Place the thermometer well under one side of your child’s tongue.
- Have your child hold it in place with her lips, not her teeth, and tell her to breathe through her nose.
- Wait until the thermometer beeps before taking a reading.
Oral readings can be around 0.5°C lower than body temperature.
Rectal thermometers are best used for babies and young children under 12 months (older children will probably protest loudly!). Rectal readings are most reliable for babies under three months.
Taking a rectal temperature is often difficult, especially when your baby is very active – the thermometer can slide out of the rectum, or the tip of the thermometer might damage the lining of the rectum.
Place the tip of a digital thermometer just inside your child’s anus and wait for it to beep before taking a reading.
Taking your child’s temperature under the armpit is usually the safest method, especially in young children. Unfortunately, it’s also the least accurate method.
Place the thermometer in your child’s armpit and close his arm, holding his elbow against his body. Wait for the thermometer to beep before taking a reading.
Armpit readings can record a temperature up to 1°C lower than the actual body temperature.
Tips on measuring your child’s temperature
- A variety of thermometers is available, from standard, oral thermometers to the newer, temporal artery scanners. You can use any of these devices, but a digital thermometer is generally all you need.
- It is most accurate to use a rectal thermometer for infants and young children. If you feel uneasy doing this, use whichever device makes you most comfortable. In older children, an oral temperature is most accurate, if the child is able to tolerate it.
When to see your doctor?
Babies under three months of age who develop a fever must be seen by a doctor immediately because it’s harder to tell if they have a serious, underlying illness.
In children under 12 months, fever might be a sign of a more significant illness, and you do need to seek medical advice.
In children over 12 months, seek medical attention if your child has a fever and:
- looks sicker than before – more pale, lethargic and weak
- has trouble breathing
- becomes drowsy
- refuses to drink and is weeing less often (if your child has fewer than half the usual number of wet nappies, see a doctor)
- complains of a stiff neck, persistent headache or light hurting his eyes
- vomits persistently, or has frequent bouts of diarrhea
- doesn’t improve in 48 hours
- suffers pain
- if you are concerned for any reason
A fever will run its course regardless of treatment. Fever is a result of the body’s attempt to fight an infection. Your child’s temperature will return to normal when the infection or other cause of the fever have gone completely.
In older children, treat the fever only if you feel it’s making your child uncomfortable, irritable or so lethargic that she can’t drink enough fluids.
Generally, children handle fever well, but you can do a few things to make your child more comfortable:
- Dress your child in light clothing.
- If you breastfed and the child is younger than six months, offer extra breastfeeds.
- If you formula-fed and the child is younger than six months, offer him his usual amount of formula. You might need to feed him smaller amounts more frequently if he’s unwell.
- If your child is older than six months, keep breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. You can also offer your child clear fluids, like water. If your child isn’t hungry while he has a fever, that’s OK.
- Give your child liquid paracetamol in the correct and recommended dose. Giving your child more than the recommended dose can cause liver damage. It’s important not to give fever-lowering medication too often or for prolonged periods because it can cause side effects.
- Avoid cool baths, sponging, and fans. These can actually make your child more uncomfortable.
If your child has a fever, the most important thing is to make sure he’s drinking enough water to avoid dehydration. If you’re worried your child isn’t drinking enough liquids, speak with your GP.
Dear moms, we’ve all been there! You’re awakened in the middle of the night by the pained cries of your young child, and you notice that her forehead is hot to touch. You take his temperature, and the reading sends your heart racing. We parents have “fever phobia”: the tendency to freak out when our child’s body temperature spikes, but in most cases here’s what experts say you should do instead: Take a deep breath and relax!