Fever in children and what to do about it?

fever - friend or foe

fever – friend or foe

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m wondering if I should always aggressively try to bring fever down in my child? Isn’t fever sometimes good?

Dear reader: Fever in children can be a tricky thing and it’s one of those symptoms that scares parents the most – for a good reason as no parent wants to see their child sick. So what to do about it?

In the simplest of terms and most commonly – do nothing.

Now, this comes with a few strings attached, as usual, so let me clarify..

Fever in itself isn’t dangerous for children, even if it climbs to as high as 40 degrees Centigrade (104 F) or even higher than that. By far the most common cause of fevers in children are viral infections, in which case the fever is helpful to fight off the virus. If a child had been previously healthy and is tolerating fever well, there is no need to bring it down with medications, or anything else for that matter – just make the child comfortable, make sure he/she is properly hydrated and is peeing regularly (a decrease in peeing may signal dehydration, a condition especially dangerous for children so stay on top of this).

Tolerating fever well means a child can still sleep, can drink and is not in obvious distress – crying, being fussy, irritable, drowsy etc. If you feel that your child is not tolerating it well, then by all means bring the fever down with children’s Advil or Tylenol (that’s Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen); or try a luke warm shower first and see.

Of course, if you are concerned about your child, take him/her to your doctor or to an emergency department immediately as sometimes fevers can signal a more serious problem that requires medical attention, and as parents we often sense these situations very well.

If a fever isn’t going away after 2-3 days, and/or more symptoms develop bring your child to a doctor for an assessment, just to make sure something other than a simple virus isn’t the culprit.┬áIf a child has a chronic condition (like diabetes, arthritis or any other), then visiting a doctor sooner rather than later is always the best!

Fevers in children happen often but we tend to advise parents with children whose fevers are viral in origin, to leave the fever be if a child can tolerate it and just observe it – it often speeds up the recovery and spares a child medications, which are not without their potential side effects.

Remember, always trust your instinct – if concerned, do not hesitate to bring your child to a doctor.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo