Fever in children

What is it?

If you take the temperature in your child's mouth or ear, the normal temperature is between 36° and 36.8° C (97.7° to 99.1°F).

What are the causes?

Parents get too worried about their kids’ fevers. When a fever strikes a child most parents overmedicate, use cold baths unnecessarily and check temperatures too frequently. Fever is the body's defence mechanism against either viruses or bacteria. It is an important way by which the body fights infection. The body tries to create so much heat that the virus or the bacteria cannot survive. Having a temperature helps the child fight illness. The part of the human brain which controls body temperature is not fully developed in children. That means that children's temperature may rise and fall very quickly. The temperature of their surroundings very easily affects a child's body temperature. If it is very hot, take off some of your child's clothes so heat can escape from their body. If it is very cold, parents can help their child stay warm by dressing him or her in warm clothes.

Seek professional help?

Observe your child carefully. If the child looks exhausted, ill and behaves differently, call the doctor immediately.If you have a young child, less than three months old, who runs a high fever, call the doctor. If your child cries continuously without your being able to comfort her, or doesn't wake up easily, call the doctorIf your child has a temperature over 38 degrees C (101.3 degrees F) for more than three days, the child needs to be examined by a doctor.And if your child has any of these symptoms call the doctor immediately: Stiff neck Hallucinations Red rash or blue/purple dots or patches Troubled breathing Cramps Persistent vomiting or diarrhoea Severe tonsillitis If it is painful for the child to urinate, or she urinates more than usual Other illnesses If your child has just had an operation If your child does not seem to be getting better

What is the treatment?

A child with a high temperature needs more liquids than otherwise, because the fever will make them sweat a lot. Make sure the child drinks plenty of liquids - if necessary, a teaspoonful every few minutes. Provided she drinks plenty of liquids, it won't matter too much if she eats very little for a couple of days.A child with a high temperature also needs rest and sleep. She does not have to be in bed all day if she feels like playing, but she should have the opportunity to lie down.If the child shivers while her temperature is rising, it is necessary to cover her with a a blanket, but when her temperature has stabilised and the child starts sweating,she needs to cool down. She only need to wear underwear or a nappy and this will help the heat escape from the body. Make sure her room is ventilated and cool. If you want to use medication to get the temperature down, ask your doctor who will be able to tell you what to use and how much. The dosage will depend on both the age and weight of your child. Paracetamol suspension is the usual choice.A sick child is often tired and bad-tempered. She sleeps a lot and when she is awake, she will want her parents around all the time. It is okay to spoil a child a little while she is sick. Read to her, play with her and spend time with her. This is not the time to teach a child good manners. A child usually recovers quickly and will go back to their old self again.

DoctorNDTV Team

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