Fever. It’s the five letter F-word that brings fear and worry to many parents.
There are a lot of myths and misinformation out there about fevers in kids.
Let’s dispel the top three today:
Myth #1: Fever is harmful for children.
Truth: Fever (an increase in the body’s temperature above 99.4F or 37.4C) is a natural, beneficial process, whose function is to optimize the immune system’s response.
Fever is a sign that the body is working on eliminating an infection.
The biggest risk related to fever is the potential for dehydration, especially when the bug that the body is fighting also causes diarrhea and/or vomiting. If your child refuses fluids (water, breast milk, homemade broths and natural electrolyte drinks – Ultima Replenisher is one of our family favourites – small regular sips will do) and you are concerned about dehydration or about the illness causing the fever, call your local healthcare line (here in Nova Scotia it’s 811) or make an appointment with your family physician or naturopathic doctor.
Myth #2: Fevers can cause brain damage.
Truth: No record exists of a single case of brain damage due to fever
with infection, except when there is infection of the brain itself.
Febrile (or fever related) seizures occur in about 3% of children with an infection related fever. While the experience is certainly frightening for parents, there are no records of febrile seizures causing brain damage and they do not increase your child’s risk of epilepsy.
Myth #3: Always treat the fever.
Truth: Generally, when it comes to managing a fever, it’s important to treat the child, not the fever.
An individualized approach to treatment is best, as the height of the fever doesn’t always dictate the severity of illness. When your child has a fever, review this observation checklist – Is the child drinking fluids well? Is he/she urinating at least once every eight hours? (Ideally every 3-4 hours or wetting 6-8 diapers daily) Are you able to console him? Is she playing normally? Is he alert and smiling at you? Is her skin colour normal? Does he look well when his temperature comes down?
The most common response when a child has a fever is to give over the counter fever reducing medications. There are both ups and downs to giving a child Tylenol, Advil or Motrin. The biggest ups – they appear help a child feel better quickly and the child may be more likely to drink fluids, nibble foods and sleep. The downside – these medications can mask other important symptoms and some studies show that they actually suppress the immune system and prolong illness. These medications also come with risks like digestive irritation, liver toxicity and kidney toxicity. These risks increase for children under age two and in children at risk of dehydration.
There are many other options for managing fever, beyond the usual fever reducing medications, with the overall goals of boosting the immune system, improving circulation of immune factors, preventing dehydration and helping the body use the fever for fighting the infection.
Want to learn more? Looking for additional, reliable information about why the body produces fever, when it’s necessary to call the doctor and how you can support your child’s body naturally? Check out Fever: Friend or Foe? or call the office to book an appointment (902-446-4072)