What is a Fever?
A fever is a rise in body temperature that goes above a certain level. The level depends on how you take the temperature :
— Rectal temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC)
— Oral (mouth) temperature above 100ºF (37.8ºC)
— Armpit temperature above 99ºF (37.2ºC)
— Ear temperature above 100.4ºF (38ºC) in rectal mode or 99.5ºF (37.5ºC) in oral mode
The height of the temperature is less important than how sick your child seems to you. If you think your child has a fever, and he or she seems sick, see a doctor.
What is the Best Way to Take my Child’s Temperature?
The most accurate way is to take a rectal temperature. Oral temperatures are also reliable when done in children who are at least four years old.
Armpit, ear, and forehead temperatures are not as accurate as rectal or oral temperatures.
What Causes Fever?
The most common cause of fever in children is viral infections. Children can get a fever if they have:
— A cold or the flu
— An airway infection, such as laryngotracheitis or bronchiolitis
— A stomach or tummy bug
— A urinary infection (bacteria), etc.
In some cases, children get a fever after receiving a vaccine.
Should I Take My Child to See a Doctor?
You should take your child to a doctor if he or she is:
— Younger than three months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher. Your infant should see a doctor even if he or she looks normal or seems fine.
— Between three and 36 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher for more than three days. Go right away if your child seems sick or is fussy, clingy, or refuses to drink fluids.
— Any age and has a rectal temperature of 102ºF (38.9ºC) or higher.
Children of any age should also see a doctor if they have:
— Oral, rectal, ear, or forehead temperature of 104ºF (40ºC) or higher.
— A seizure caused by a fever.
— Fevers that keep coming back (even if they last only a few hours).
— A fever in addition to an ongoing medical problem, such as heart disease, cancer, lupus, or sickle cell or thalassemia anemia, organ transplant.
— A fever as well as a new skin rash.
How Can I help My Child Feel Better?
— Offer your child lots of fluids to drink, keep them hydrated. Call the doctor if your child won’t or can’t drink fluids for more than a few hours.
— Encourage your child to rest as much as he or she wants. But don’t force them.
— Your child can go back to school or regular activities after he or she has had a normal temperature for 24 hours.
Some parents give their children baths to cool them down, but that is not usually necessary.
How are Fevers Treated?
That depends on what is causing the fever. Many children do not need treatment. Those who do might need:
— Antibiotics to fight the infection causing the fever. But antibiotics work only on infections caused by bacteria.
— Medicines, such as acetaminophen, paracetamol (sample brand name: Tylenol, Efferalgan) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil) can help bring down a fever. But these medicines are not always necessary.
If you do not know how best to handle your child’s fever, call his or her doctor.
NEVER give aspirin to a child younger than 18 years old. Aspirin can cause a dangerous condition called Reye syndrome.
Dr. Philippe Collin is a paediatrician at Family Medical Practice in Hanoi. For information or assistance call (04) 3843 0748 (Hanoi), (08) 3822 7848 (Ho Chi Minh City) or (0511) 358 2699 (Da Nang). Alternatively, click on vietnammedicalpractice.com