- Dr. Liz Homan
Facts About Fever!
So many parents have what is known as “Fever Phobia” and feel that fevers are dangerous. I want to talk to you about the facts about fevers!
When the body is invaded by any microbe, virus or bacteria, the first line of defense of for fells called microphages to come and eliminates 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 recognizes the invader and raises the body temp to assist in killing off the invader. The hypothalamus determines how much to raise the temperature based off of the number of pyrogens and proteins present. So, it is the body naturally working to kill off the invader. And even though fevers are often thought to be dangerous, the only body temperature that can actually cause brain damage is 180*F, which is the body cannot typically achieve on its own.
Lets now talk about the different levels of fever.
Normal body temp can vary greatly depending on activity and time of day. According the American Academy of Pediatrics, an oral reading of 99*F or less is considered normal.
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.
One of the biggest concerns with fever is dehydration so make sure to watch for the possible side effects of dehydration which include dry mouth, lack of urine or wet diapers 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.
Another time that it is essential to reach out for medical attention is if your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever of any kind.
But, when you notice that your child has a fever, but they are still running around and acting normal, there is very little to worry about and their little body is doing what it needs to do! If you notice that they have a fever above 102.2*F and they appear ill, you should consult with your medical professional. You should also reach out for medical advice if they have any temp above 104.5*F.
So if you child is happy but has either a low-grade of moderate fever, we often wonder if we should lower their temperature. Since it is very rare for a fever to actually cause any kind of harm to your child, the best response is to let it run it 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.”
But what should we do then if we are not supposed to lower the fever? Honestly, make sure that your child is as content as possible and keep them hydrated. A fever will make your child sweat which results in them losing sodium and water so make sure to give your child something that will hydrate them but that does not contain sugar and keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration mentioned earlier. Also, it is good to be informed on what you should do if you child does have a febrile seizure. While it can be frightening it will typically have no lasting effects. During a seizure the child should be on their side or with their stomach to the ground. Make sure to contact your healthcare provider as soon as the seizure stops.
I hope that you now know some additional truths about fevers and feel more prepared to help your child next time they have a fever! I would love to hear from you if any of this was new for you or if you have any questions.