Fever in children
Fever in children can cause considerable anxiety to parents. However, understanding the cause of fever can reduce the parental anxiety and help the parents take appropriate action.
Why do kids have fever?
The normal temperature of our body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (plus or minus one degree) or 37 degrees Celsius (plus or minus 0.6 degrees). Whenever there is infection or illness in the body, the body temperature is raised, causing fever. The infection can be caused by any microorganisms including bacteria, viruses etc. When our body fights infection, the immune system releases chemicals which cause fever.
What are the common infections causing fever?
In school going children the common causes of infection are viruses. In some children bacteria can also cause fever. The infections can involve different parts of body including the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract etc.
What are the other symptoms seen with fever?
Any fever can cause vomiting, headache and body pains. Sometimes high fevers can cause shivering, cold hands and feet. Along with these common symptoms, other symptoms can be seen depending upon the body system involved. For example, they can cause cold, cough, ear pain, loose stools etc.
Meningitis: Severe headache, neck stiffness, photophobia (unable to tolerate light)
Seizures, lethargy, irritability etc.
Sepsis: high fever, shock (cold hands and feet)
Pneumonia: severe cough, fast breathing
UTI: vomiting, urine, smelly urine
Tonsillitis: throat pain, difficulty in swallowing
Ear infection: ear pain, discharge
Viral fevers: head ache, body aches, leg pains etc.
What can parents do to help their children?
- It is not always possible to confirm the presence of fever by touching the child.
- Parents should ideally confirm the presence of fever by using a thermometer.
- Once fever is confirmed with thermometer, parents can use fever medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen to reduce the temperature.
- Loose clothing
- In case of high fever parents can do sponging with water to reduce the temperature.
- Ensure child has plenty of liquids
- What can parents do when children refuse to feed during fever?
- It is not uncommon for children to have very low appetite during fever.
- In addition, some of the infections can cause nausea or vomiting sensation. This can result in refusal of food intake during fevers. Parents should not panic and instead encourage children to take frequent sips of any liquid that the child tolerates. As long as the child drinks decent amounts of liquids and passes urine 4 to 5 times a day, parents should not worry.
How can doctors do to help your children?
Doctors can diagnose the cause of fever and prescribe appropriate medications to treat the cause of fever. They can prescribe antibiotics when needed. In cases of severe infections or sick child, they may advice admission to the hospital for further treatment.
When should antibiotics be used to treat fever?
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat if bacteria are suspected to be the cause of fever. Sometimes parents use antibiotics on their own without advice from doctor. Such practice is not appropriate, and antibiotics should only be used on advice from a doctor.
When should parents seek help from doctor?
- Parents can manage a child with fever at home for 72 hours, provided the fever is mild and the child well.
- Young infants
- Warning signs
- On the other hand, in cases of high fever, unwell child or the presence of warning signs, parents should seek help immediately from the doctor. Parents should also seek help earlier in cases of new-born babies and young infants,
What are the warning signs associated with fever?
- The warning signs associated with fever are
- High uncontrollable temperatures
- Markedly decreased intake of food including liquids
- Decreased urine output
What are febrile seizures?
Febrile seizures are fits caused due to raised body temperature. They are usually harmless in majority of children.
Can fever cause harm to children?
Some parents fear that fever can cause harm to children including damage to the brain. This is not true. In fact, fever may have a protective role in the body’s fight against infection.
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