Although alarming, a fever in your child is actually a sign that their immune system is working properly. Children experience fevers when the immune system detects a bacterial or viral infection. The rising temperature kills the illness-causing agent, allowing your child to recover. For this reason it is a good idea to sometimes allow a fever to run its course. Yet, not all fevers are benign. The following guide can help guide you so that you can treat your child's fever correctly.
Use a thermometer
Flushed cheeks, glassy eyes, and a warm forehead allow you to diagnose a fever in a child without a thermometer, but it's still important to get an accurate reading on the child's temperature. The simplest way to do this for both infants and young children is with a quick-read digital thermometer. These are typically designed for use in the ear or armpit, although thermometers made for infants may require a rectal reading.
The reason to get an accurate reading is because extremely high fevers can be a major concern. Contact your pediatrician right away if an infant has a temperature above 100 F or if a child's temperature is above 104 F. A doctor, such as one from Willow Oak Pediatrics, can advise you on what to do next.
Treat with caution
It can be tempting to immediately provide a child with Tylenol or another over-the-counter fever reducer as soon as you notice that they have a fever. As a general rule, if the fever is beneath the danger zone, as detailed above, and the fever has persisted for fewer than 24 hours, it may be better to allow the fever to run its course so it can burn off the illness. Just continue to take temperature readings hourly to ensure the fever doesn't rise too high, and contact your doctor if the fever persists for more than a day.
Focus on hydration
Children with fevers may not want to eat, but you do need to make sure they stay hydrated. Water and clear fluids, including electrolyte-replacement drinks formulated for kids, are best. You can encourage drinking by providing the beverages with a straw or sippy cup. If your child is refusing fluids and isn't urinating, contact the pediatrician.
Your doctor may advise that you attempt to bring down the fever. In this case, provide your child with the appropriate dosage of a children's fever reducer. You may also want to place a lukewarm compress on their forehead or give them a lukewarm sponge bath. The fever will likely begin to come down within an hour or two.
If your child is unresponsive, suffering seizures, or developing a rash, contact your pediatrician immediately for emergency services.