Fever, what should you do?

The signs of an illness, which make it possible to establish a diagnosis, usually develop within hours or days following the onset of a high temperature; it is sometimes difficult for your child’s paediatrician to make an accurate diagnosis in the early hours of the illness so, if the child shows no evidence of anything serious, it is more appropriate to wait. 

While waiting for further signs to develop, you can provide some initial treatment and try to gather as much information as possible from observing the child’s appearance and his behaviour.

If the tone of the child’s crying is strong but easily consolable or distracted when playing with toys, this means he is lively and not suffering to a great extent. If your child is excessively sleepy and is difficult to wake up when asleep, this may be a sign of a change in his level of consciousness due to a severe infection. Also monitor the child for the presence of: repeated vomiting, difficulty in breathing, (wheezing and whistling when breathing out, or fatigue when doing so), abnormal skin colour (i.e. mottled or cyanotic blue hue) and the presence of a rash or extensive pain.

If the general conditions are good, the fever will probably disappear in a day or two without any particular treatment. Meanwhile you can give your child some water or chamomile tea, in small sips, and small meals (without forcing him to eat), with food that is easy to digest. Finally, cover him up as much as he seems to be comfortable without overdoing it.

Remember that even when a child has a fever, but is in good general health, he can be taken out to another house or to the paediatrician, if appropriately protected (by car, well covered up in winter, in the coolers hours in summer).

There are some medicines (antipyretic) whose main action is to lower body temperatures; they can be administered to children when needed, without a prescription. Antipyretic medicines should only be used if and when the temperature is such that it causes too much discomfort and you need to reduce the level (usually one degree – one and a half degrees from the starting level). In addition, it may take one or two hours for the medicine to be effective. Generally speaking, when the temperature rises over 38° on an underarm reading, it is recommended to administer an antipyretic. The medicines used to lower the temperature of children are paracetamol and ibuprofen (other commonly used medicines are nimesulide, morniflumate, naproxen). Paracetamol is administered orally in tablets or drops or syrup or using suppositories via the rectum; these should only be used if the child is vomiting because its absorption through the rectal mucus varies in relation to the local conditions (e.g. the presence of faeces). Ibuprofen is only administered by mouth. Sponging the child or putting ice packs on his head will not lower the fever. Rubbing alcohol over his body is very dangerous.

Antibiotics are not used to treat fevers, but to treat the cause of the fever when the cause of the sickness is an infection by bacteria. If the infection is viral then antibiotics will have no beneficial effect.

Always seek an opinion from your paediatrician if your baby is less than six months old and has a temperature exceeding 38° because the minor signs of a serious disease may be difficult to assess.

Article courtesy of Chicco.com Chiccopedia