Allison Ast: If your child has a fever, relax

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

For anyone with children, you probably have experienced this: Your child is ill and you take her temperature and the reading — 102F — sends your heart racing. Your first instinct is to call the doctor or go to the emergency room.

But in most cases what you should do instead: Take a deep breath and relax.

Fever is a temperature above 100.4 F. Fever is the body’s mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection. The degree of fever does not always correlate with the severity of illness. There is little danger that a high fever will cause brain damage or permanent problems.

If she has a runny nose and fever, it usually means she has got a common cold. If she has vomiting and diarrhea, it is probably a stomach virus. In both cases, the fever tends to come on gradually and disappear within 3-4 days.

First instinct is to treat your child’s fever, but keep in mind that you should focus on the way your child looks and acts rather than on what the thermometer says. If you have to chase her around to give her medicine, she probably doesn’t need it. If bringing down your child’s fever makes her feel less crabby, it is fine to do so. It is not necessary to wake your child from sleep to give her fever-reducer medicine.

For children under 6 months, infant acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the only recommended fever reducer medicine. Older babies and children can also have ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), which is more effective at fighting fever but also somewhat more likely to cause stomach irritation. Keep in mind, medication is not the only treatment for fever. A lukewarm bath or washcloth may temporarily cool your child.

Next time your child has a fever, relax, it will be ok.

Allison Ast is a Gainesville physician.

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