Fever in Children
What is a normal temperature?
A normal temperature is about 37ºC (98ºF) when taken orally (by mouth). Temperatures taken rectally (by rectum) usually run 0,5ºC higher than those taken orally. So a normal temperature is about 37.5ºC (95.5ºF) when taken rectally. But temperatures may vary during the day, even in healthy children. Many doctors define a fever as an oral temperature above 38ºC (100.4ºF) or a rectal temperature above 38.5ºC (101.3ºF).
Fever is very common in childhood. It is often the first sign that your child is unwell.
Most often, fever is caused by an infection, but it may also result from some other illness. A high fever does not tell you how serious the illness is. Your child’s behavior is generally more important. A child with mild infection could have a very high fever. A child with a very severe infection could have no fever at all.
Most fevers are caused by viral infections. Fevers are a sign of the body’s normal protective response to these viruses.
The types of fever that occur in children are usually not harmful. They do not cause brain damage or death. Some children (less than 1 in 20) develop seizers with fever. These seizures are not harmful and have no long-term effects.
What are the different causes of fever?
Any fever in a baby under 1 month of age needs medical attention right away.
The problem causing the fever may be due to infection and can be very serious. It is very difficult to know the difference between minor illnesses in a newborn. Fever may often be the only sign of an infection.
Fever in a baby between 1 month and 3 months of age us still worrisome and needs medical consultation. Most fever all this age is due to viral illness but you should call your doctor. It our baby is not lively or not behaving normally, you should see a doctor right away.
For a baby between 3 months and 1 year of age, fever is usually due to a cold or other viral illness. Babies can also develop fever following their immunizations.
For older children aged 2 to 6 years of age, the most common cause of fever is a viral illness. Other causes include strep throat, ear infections and pneumonia.
In school-age children, viral infections of the respiratory tract are still the most common cause of fever. Strep throat and scarlet fever (strep throat with a rash) are also common at this age.
How do you know your child has fever?
Check for fever by taking your child’s rectal, oral (mouth), tympanic (ear) or axillary (armpit) temperature. Your child has a fever when:
- The rectal temperature is 38.5ºC (101.3ºF) or higher (for babies under 3 months, fever is defined as a rectal temperature of 38.2ºC or higher).
- The mouth/ear temperature is 38ºC (100.4º) or higher.
- The armpit temperature is 38ºC (100.4º) or higher. Armpit temperatures are generally not accurate for low-grade temperatures.
There are 2 types of thermometers you can use.
1.Glass thermometers contain a column of mercury that rises with the temperature.
2.Digital thermometers have a battery and show the temperature reading. They can be used for rectal, axillary and oral temperatures. They have several advantages. They are unbreakable, easy to read and measure temperature faster than a glass thermometer. Hold a digital thermometer in place until it gives a signal.
Use a glass thermometer carefully because it can break in your child’s rectum or mouth.
There are 2 types of glass thermometers. One is taking oral (mouth) and axillary (armpit) temperatures.
The other type is taking rectal temperatures. It has a large bulb at the end.
How to take a rectal temperature
Rectal thermometers can be a more accurate way to determine fever in a baby or young child.
Follow these steps to take a rectal temperature:
1.If using a glass thermometer, shake for mercury column down until it reads below 35ºC (96ºF). To do this, hold the end opposite the bulb tightly between your fingers and snap your wrist. Snap it away from any counter tops or nearby objects. Try shaking the thermometer over a bed or sofa.
2.Rub the bulb end of the thermometer with soap and water. Rinse it with cool clear water.
3.Place a small amount of lubricant such as petroleum jelly on the bulb end.
4.Place your baby tummy-down on a firm surface with his or her head turned sideways for easy breathing. If your baby is tiny, you can lay him or her across your lap. If he or she is larger or squirming, change a table or the floor will be much safer place to take his temperature.
5.Firmly press the palm of your hand against your baby’s lower back just above the buttocks. If he or she tries to roll over, increase the pressure to hold him or her still.
6.With your other hand, insert the lubricated thermometer ¾ inch to 1 inch into the rectum. Hold the thermometer between your second and third fingers with your hand cupped over your baby’s bottom. Hold in place for 3 minutes before removing and reading it. Never leave baby unattended with a thermometer inserted.
7.Wipe the thermometer washing with soap and cool water.
Ear Thermometers are different type of digital thermometer and cost more. They are very quick and require very little co-operation from your child. However, instructions and proper placement must be followed carefully for a correct reading.
Other types of temperature measurement
What is the treatment for a fever?
The most important reason to treat fever in children is to make them comfortable so that the y can drink and sleep well. The fever itself is not harmful to children. It is a normal part of fighting and infection.
Children under 3 months: Do not give fever medicine unless you have talked to your doctor. See your doctor immediately.
Children over 3 months: Acetaminophen (such as Infant and Children’s Acetaminophen, Panadol, Advil, Tylenol, Tempra) is the best medicine to give for a fever.
Give 10 t0 15 mg of Acetaminophen per kilogram of body weight. Give it every 4 to 6 hours. Do not give more than 4 doses of medicine in one day. It could harm your child.
Acetaminophen is a medicine that relieves pain and lowers fever.
NEVER GIVE YOUR CHILD ACETYLSALICYLIC ACID (ASD) also known as ASPRIN.
Aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome in children who have the flu or chickenpox. Reye’s syndrome, is an extremely rare but serious illness that can affect the brain and liver and can lead to death.
There are other ways to help a child to feel better
- Give your child plenty to drink to prevent dehydration (not enough fluid in the body) and help the body cool itself.
- Remove extra blankets and clothing so heat can leave your child’s body and help lower the body temperature. Do not take off all your child’s clothes. If you do, your child may become too cold and start shivering.
- Sponging your child’s body with lukewarm water may help lower the fever.
See your doctor if your child has any of these signs
- Has a fever higher than 39ºC (102ºF) with a change in behavior (such has irritability, lethargy)
- Has a fever and the baby is less than 6 months old.
- Constant vomiting or diarrhea
- When the child is very sleepy, lethargic or unresponsive.
- Seems confused or
- Has problem breathing or wheezing
- Has fever for more than 3 days.
- Has convulsion (fit)
- Has a stiff neck
- Ha purple or red spots anywhere on the skin
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