- Dr. Liz Homan
All About Fevers
We never like when our kiddos are not feeling well, especially when they are exhausted and have a fever. Well, unfortunately, or fortunately, this is part of life and part of what we get to deal with as parents.
We talked a few weeks (maybe months?) ago about how to best support your child when they are not feeling well. Here is the link for you to reread that post. Today I want to talk to you specifically about fevers and educate on them!
A fever is created in the body after many lines of defense are used to protect the body. So, when the body is invaded by some sort of microbe, virus or bacteria and the first line of cells, called microphages come in to eliminate the problem. If these fail to remove the ‘bug’ then the body creates other pyrogens and proteins to assist the microphages. Once these are created the hypothalamus in the brain recognized the invader and begins to raise the body temperature to assist in killing off the invader. As the hypothalamus evaluates the number of proteins and pyrogens, it raises the temperature to aid the body correctly. A fever is the body naturally working to kill off the invader and to protect the body!
A lot of people think that fevers are dangerous, and they can be at times, but they are usually very helpful for the body to protect it from the invaded microbes, viruses or bacteria. So, let’s talk about the different levels of body temperature!
Normal body temp can vary greatly depending on activity and time of day. According
to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an oral reading of 99*F or less is considered
A low-grade fever is between 100*F and 102.2*F and is beneficial with most bugs that
a child may be exposed to. A low-grade fever may also be present when your child is
teething as well, so don’t confuse teething for an illness.
A moderate fever is between 102.2-104*F
A high fever is 104.1*F-106*F
And a serious fever is one that is at or above 108*F and this can be harmful, but it is
rare for body temperature to get to this point on its own.
So now you know the different levels of a fever, no matter what level your child is at, there are certain things that you need to look out for when you see a fever in your child. First, any child that is younger than 3 months old and is experiencing a fever should be evaluated by a medical professional right away.
Beyond that, one of the biggest concerns with a fever is dehydration! It is vital to watch for the possible effects of dehydration when a fever is noted. These include dry mouth, lack of urine or wet diaper for 6-8 hours, dry skin, lethargy, irritability, fatigue or dizziness. If you notice these signs and you are not able to get your child to keep clear liquids down, make sure to seek medical attention.
On the other hand, if you notice that your child is running a fever but still running around, acting normal, there is very little to worry about as their body is doing what it needs to do! But if their temperature gets up to 104.5*F, you should reach out for medical advice no matter the demeanor of your child! And if you do notice that they have a fever above 102.2*F and they appear ill, you should consult with your medical professional.
So, if you child is happy but has a low-grade or moderate fever, we often wonder if we should lower their temperature. Since it is very rare for a fever to cause any kind of harm to your child, the best response is to let it run its course. But be aware that fevers will naturally spike a little in the late afternoon and evening. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend fever-reducing medications and states that “Fever is not an illness, rather, it is a symptom of sickness and is usually a positive sign that the body is fighting infection.” So why would we want to reduce what the body is doing in order to heal itself? They even state that “Fevers do not need to be treated with medication unless your child is uncomfortable or has a history of febrile convulsions. The fever may be important in helping your child fight the infection.”
If we are not supposed to do anything, like give them fever reducing medication, what are we supposed to do for our child then when they have a fever? The best thing to do for them it to make sure that they stay comfortable and content and to also make sure that they stay well hydrated! With a fever, a child will sweat more resulting in them losing sodium and water so it is important to give your child something that will hydrate them but that does not contain sugar! You need to keep an eye out for signs of dehydration that I mentioned earlier!
With fevers having the ability to change so rapidly, it is good to be informed on what you should do if your child does have a febrile seizure. While it can be frightening, it will typically have no lasting effect on your child and usually results in the fever reducing on its own. During a seizure, the child should be on either their side or stomach on the floor. After the seizure has stopped, it is important to contact your healthcare provider to see if any follow up care is needed!
I find knowledge to be power and I hope that through this post, I have impowered you so that you are better informed next time your child experiences a fever! Remember, it is very rare for the body to cause damage to itself with a fever, but we need to keep an eye our for dehydration!