by Russel McKenna, DO, Treehouse Pediatrics and Family Care
Is Fever Good or Bad? Fever is a signal by the body that it has started a process to provide protection. A fever is a body temperature greater than 100.4°F (38°C). Fever is not an illness that needs to be cured. Fever benefits the body by decreasing the growth of bacteria or viruses and encourages the body’s immune system to be more active. It is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself.
When Do I Treat a Fever? The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “If your child is older than 6 months and has a fever, they probably do not need to be treated for the fever unless they are uncomfortable. Watch their behavior. If they are drinking, eating, sleeping normally and are able to play, you should wait to see if the fever improves by itself and do not need to treat the fever.” Tylenol or Ibuprofen (if your child is 6 months and older) can be used.
What Else Should I Do? Monitor your child for symptoms and signs of a serious illness. If they play and interact with you as the fever comes down, that can be a good sign. Fever can last longer than a few days. If your child has complaints of severe throat pain, ear pain, neck pain or stiff neck, severe belly pain, persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea, or you see a rash that is new, call your doctor’s office and get advice.
Some children are at greater risk of complications from illnesses. If your child has a fever and also problems with their immune system, is receiving steroids or is being treated for cancer, you should alert your child’s health care provider. Children who have not started immunizations or who are not fully immunized can be at a greater risk of more serious infections. Please remind whoever is taking care of your child that you do not immunize or are not fully immunized.
Can Routine Infections Turn into Serious Infections? Influenza season is coming. Some children who get Influenza may get a fever and other symptoms that last longer than a few days. Influenza can make the body’s immune system work less effectively and put the body at greater risk of complications from having the influenza virus. This scenario plays out every year for many children. If this happens to your child, be watching for signs that your child is worsening.
Remember that flu shots are recommended for ages 6 months and older and are available at many locations in Cache Valley. Prevention can save lives.
A Spanish and English version of more specific advice on fever can be found here: patiented.aap.org/content2.aspx?aid=5107