Fever – What is and how to measure it?

It is the increase in body temperature above normal limits, usually between 36.5 and 37.5°C and differs from person to person. 
Generally speaking, the body temperature is lowest in the morning and slightly higher later on in the afternoon; it also rises in some normal situations, such as an intense physical effort. Usually a fever is a manifestation by the immune defense system of an attack by infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) or in whatever manner foreign to the body. It is therefore a natural and useful reaction which helps us to heal. It is therefore not always recommended to lower it at all costs, but only if it is very high and particularly annoying for the child.

THE SIGNS OF FEVER. Temperatures usually begin slowly and gradually increase to higher levels; at times the temperature can rise abruptly, causing considerable discomfort. As the temperature rises, this may cause shivering and muscle contractions which generate heat and hence raise the body temperature even further; this activity is commanded by the centre of the brain and stimulated by substances that are produced in the body due to the illness.
Some children have seizures when the temperature rises suddenly which are caused by a particular hyperthermia sensitivity of the nerve cells in the brain. Febrile seizures, although rather dramatic when they occur, are never life threatening and do not have any impact on a child’s future health; the situation should however be monitored in order to check that these episodes do not, in fact, compromise the child’s health (simple febrile seizures).

Bear in mind that a body temperature can be physiologically lower or higher after eating hot or cold substances, after running, after a bath , after moving from a warm to a cold environment, or after prolonged crying, in these cases the values indicated are not reliable. The temperature can be taken using different methods and different instruments (digital or infrared thermometers). Some methods (e.g. oral readings or liquid crystal reactive strips), however, they are not particularly reliable and due to the risks involved should not be used. Do not use mercury thermometers.

Here’s how to proceed:Underarm Measuring. This is the most recommended method for children, even infants. Use a digital thermometer, preferably with a flexible rod. Skin temperature is influenced by external factors and the positioning of the instrument; ensure therefore that the skin under the armpit is thoroughly dry and keep the child still whilst taking the measurement;

Rectal measurement. This can be a bit annoying and therefore should be used only in cases where it is difficult to keep the child still whilst taking the underarm temperature. Use a digital thermometer with a flexible rod. Lubricate the tip with Vaseline or olive oil. Whilst taking the temperature, try to hold the child still and do not lay him on his back. The result may not be reliable in the presence of diarrhoea or anal inflammation. The rectal temperature is on average half a degree higher than the underarm readings;

Measurements on the forehead with an infrared thermometer. This instrument must be used properly in order to get reliable results. Allow the temperature on the thermometer to adapt to the environment where the child is for about 20-25 minutes. If the child comes from an environment with a different temperature, wait at least 5 minutes before taking the measurement. Compare the reading with the child’s normal temperature, measured with the same instrument in order to understand the magnitude of the difference;

Ear measurements. It requires good practice to get a correct reading using this method, so it is only really reliable when performed by medical staff. Use an infrared thermometer. The sensor must be directed exactly on the eardrum: this means it is necessary to “stretch” the pavilion of the ear. Otitis or earwax can also alter the values.

Article courtesy of Chicco.com Chiccopedia