Everyone gets nervous about fever..Let’s separate some facts from myth about fever.
Normal body temperature varies by person, age, activity, and time of day. The average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), but can vary between 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C).
- In children younger than 6 months of age, the daily variation is small.
- In children 6 months to 2 years old, the daily variation is about 1o.
- Daily variations gradually increase to 2o per day by age 6.
Body temperature varies lessen adults. However, a woman’s menstrual cycle can elevate temperature by 1o or more.
Your body temperature is usually highest in the evening. It can be raised by physical activity, strong emotion, eating, heavy clothing, medications, high room temperature, and high humidity. This is especially true in children.
A rectal temperature up to 100°F (37.8°C) may be entirely normal. A rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C)or above should always be considered a fever. Lower temperatures might also be a fever, depending on the person.
Fever is an illness.
Fever is not an illness. Far from being an enemy, it is an important part of the body’s defense against infection. Many infants and children develop high fevers with minor viral illnesses. While a fever signals to us that a battle might be going on in the body, the fever is fighting for the person, not against.
Fever causes brain damage
Many parents fear that fevers will cause brain damage. Brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6°F (42°C). Many parents also fear that untreated fevers will keep going higher and higher. Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105°F unless the child is overdressed or trapped in a hot place.
Fever causes seizures
Some parents fear that fevers will cause seizures. For the great majority of children, this is not the case. However, febrile seizures do occur in some children, approximately 2-5% of children under the age of 5 years. Once a child is already known to have a high fever, a febrile seizure is unlikely with the current illness. In any event, simple febrile seizures are over in moments with no lasting consequences.
All fever is caused by infections
Although infections are the most common causes of higher-than-normal body temperature, fevers have a long list of other causes, including toxins, cancers, and autoimmune diseases.
Heatstroke is a particularly dangerous type of high temperature, because the body is not able to stop the temperature from continuing to rise. It can happen when a child is left in a hot car or when you exercise too strenuously without enough to drink.
If the fever is mild and no other problems are present, no medical treatment is required. Drink fluids and rest. If a child is playful and comfortable, drinking plenty of fluids, and able to sleep, fever treatment is not likely to help.
Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dehydrated, or having difficulty sleeping. The goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever.
When trying to reduce a fever:
- DO NOT bundle up someone who has the chills.
- Remove excess clothing or blankets. The environment should be comfortably cool. For example, one layer of lightweight clothing, and one lightweight blanket to sleep. If the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help.
- A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool someone with a fever. This is especially effective after medication is given — otherwise the temperature might bounce right back up.
- DO NOT use cold baths or alcohol rubs. These cool the skin, but often make the situation worse by causing shivering, which raises the core body temperature.
- Drink cool liquids, as tolerated.
Here are some guidelines for taking medicine:
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen help reduce fever in children and adults.
- Take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours. It works by turning down the brain’s thermostat. Take ibuprofen every 6-8 hours. Ibuprofen is not approved for use in children < 6 months old.
- Aspirin is very effective for treating fever in adults. DO NOT give aspirin to children unless specifically directed by your doctor.
- Fever medicines come in different concentrations, so always check the instructions on the package.
- Don’t use any medicine to reduce fever in children ≤ 3 months of age without first contacting a health care provider.
If someone has heat exhaustion or heat stroke, remove the person from the warm area. Sponge the person with tepid water. Place ice packs in the armpits, behind the neck, and in the groin. Give fluids if the person is alert. Seek medical attention. If heat illness is causing the fever, medicines may not lower the body temperature and may even be harmful.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call a doctor right away if:
- A baby < 90 days old has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
- A baby 3 to 12 months old has a fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher.
- A child under age 2 years has a fever that lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours.
- A fever lasts longer than 48 to 72 hours in older children and adults.
- Anyone has a fever over 105°F (40.5°C), unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable.
There are other worrisome symptoms. For example, irritability, confusion, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, inability to move an arm or leg, or first-time seizure. There are other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, or cough.