1. What is fever?
Fever is a body temperature that is greater than normal. In children this is considered to be 38 degrees or higher. Fever is your child’s natural reaction to fighting an infection. Your child may feel hot to touch, look flushed and appear red in the face. The body responds with changes to help lower the temperature to normal. The blood vessels relax and become larger and closer to the skin’s surface. This allows heat to escape from the skin’s surface. As this happens you may notice that your child’s hands and feet feel cool to touch, even though their body feels hot.
2. Tepid sponging is not recommended
Cold water sponging your child is no longer a recommended to treat fever. This is because it can have the opposite desired effect. Sponging the skin with cold water tends to cause blood vessels to shrink down and move away from the skin’s surface. Less heat is lost. This makes it more difficult for the body to cool down naturally and can trap the heat in the body, and the fever remains for longer.
3. Do’s of managing fever
Do – Keep your child at home
Do – Check on your child regularly and through the night
Do – Encourage regular water sips or regular breast-feeds if water has not yet been introduced
Do – Keep your child in comfortable clothing without under or over dressing
Do – Invest in a good quality thermometer to keep at home to help you to check your child’s temperature. Your pharmacist can advise on this.
4. Medicine for fever
A fever itself is not usually dangerous. At 38 degrees it can make your child distressed and miserable. Giving medicines to help lower the temperature to normal will help to make them feel more soothed. Start by giving either paracetamol or ibuprofen alone. If that does not work then switch to giving the other alone. If that does not work then paracetamol and ibuprofen can be alternated. Always dose according to the recommendations and never give more that what is recommended on the packaging. If your child has never had these medicines before or has other medical problems, speak to your pharmacist or doctor first.
5. When to take your child to a doctor
Your child is less than 3 months age.
Fever is 39 degrees or more.
The medicines are not working.
Worry that something serious may be wrong with your child.
Your child can not be comforted.
Your child is dehydrated; not drinking, not passing much urine, dry lips, sunken eyes, over-sleeping or fast breathing.
Remember that the rash of meningitis is a rash that does not fade under pressure and this is a medical emergency.
Is it just a snotty nose or is it flu?
Flu starts suddenly, it can make your child much sicker and tends to last longer. Flu also carries a greater risk of complications such as pneumonia. The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against it.