Fever What to Do for:
to Do for a Fever
Dr. Ben Kim
all the concerns that parents have contacted my office about over the years, one
of the most common ones has been what to do with a child's fever.
order to know what to do with a fever, it is important to understand that fevers
serve to protect your body against infection and trauma in three major ways:
- A fever stimulates
your immune system into producing more white blood cells, antibodies, and a protein
called interferon, all of which work to protect your body against harmful microorganisms.
raising your body's temperature a few degrees, a fever makes it harder for invading
bacteria and viruses to survive and flourish. The higher your core body temperature
is, the harder it is for harmful microorganisms to survive in your body.
fever helps to shuttle iron to your liver so that it is not readily available
to fuel the growth of invading bacteria.
a talk that I gave several years ago on the health benefits of fevers, a biology
teacher in the audience mentioned that cold blooded animals like lizards will
intentionally seek out warmer spots to lay and rest to give themselves fevers
when they are ill. He went on to explain that all living creatures in the animal
kingdom use fevers to strengthen their immune systems when they are ill.
most common cause of a fever is a bacterial or viral infection, the vast majority
of which your body's self healing mechanisms can conquer with proper rest and
nutritional support. Heatstroke and poisoning can also cause fevers, more often
in children than in adults. If you suspect that a fever is due to heatstroke or
poisoning, I recommend that you go to the emergency room of your local hospital
fever cannot cause brain damage unless it reaches 107.6 degrees Farenheit (42
degrees Celsius) and stays there for an extended period of time. Since your brain
has a built-in thermostat that does not allow your core temperature to rise above
106 degrees Farenheit (41.1 C) during an infectious process, it is virtually impossible
to experience brain damage from a fever caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
The majority of fevers don't even reach 105 (40.5 C) degrees. The highest temperature
that I have encountered thus far has been 104.5 degrees Farenheit (40 C) in a
6 year old boy who had suffered a heatstroke.
small percentage of children can sometimes experience short-lived seizures when
they have a fever, called a febrile seizure. These seizures are caused by a rapid
increase in body temperature, not by a specific temperature. There's no need to
worry if your child experiences a febrile seizure, as they end quickly and do
not leave aftereffects.
it is usually best to allow a fever to run its course and to rely on your own
self healing mechanisms to get you well, I recommend that you seek medical attention
for fevers that are accompanied by:
persistent cough that lasts more than a week
heaviness or weakness in your legs or arms
irritability, confusion, listlessness, and any other behaviour that is out of
character for you or your child
none of the above symptoms are present, a fever is best treated by getting plenty
of rest, drinking liquids on a regular basis, eating lightly, and making sure
that you are not increasing your core temperature by wearing too many clothes
or using too many blankets. If a fever is preventing you from getting restful
sleep, a minimal dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)
can help to reduce the fever slightly, which can help you get enough rest to justify
temporary use of these pain killers. If you take a dose that completely eliminates
your fever, you might feel better in the moment, but should expect to experience
a longer recovery period than if you take a minimal dose or none at all.
more information on managing fevers in children, I recommend reading How
to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor, by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn.
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