Health Column: Fevers in children
Free Press Health Columnist
For the parent, there is not much scarier than their very sick child.
The purpose of fever in the human body is to create an environment that is not conducive to the growth of harmful organisms, but how do you know when to let a child “ride it out?”
With infection, the immune system fights back by producing white blood cells and antibodies and the fever serves as a possible indicator to parents that their child may be ill. Fevers can also occur from non-infectious causes such as too much clothing, intense exercise, a hot bath, medications, dehydration or following breast/bottle-feeding.
Signs that indicate a child may be not tolerating a fever well include weakened cry, inability to rouse from sleep, pale color, lethargy, or lack of response to a stimulus such as a parent’s voice. In general, fevers lasting less than 24 hours or below 102 F are considered “friendly.” These fevers are beneficial to run their course without bringing down the child’s temperature as long as the child is not in distress.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY OR TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM WHEN:
• Oral equivalent (adjusted if skin or armpit) equal to or greater than 101 F in a child less than two months of age.
• Oral temperature greater than 104 F in a child greater than two months of age.
• Child experiences convulsions, difficulty breathing, cries inconsolably, is lethargic or difficult to awaken, cries if touch or moved, drools or cannot swallow, has purple spots present on their skin, or has a history of febrile seizures.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR WITHIN 24 HOURS IF:
• Fever persists longer than 24 hours
• Oral temperature of 101.5-104 F is present in a child less than 2 months of age (if greater than 2 months of age, go to the emergency room or call your doctor immediately), depending on the child’s distress.
• Fever is accompanied by burning pain with urination.
TO KEEP YOUR CHILD COMFORTABLE:
• Keep your child calm, resting and lightly clothed as much as possible. Activity can raise the body temperature.
• Encourage fluids, such as Pedialyte, that have the benefit of providing electrolytes.
• Provide simple and nourishing foods such as broth and soups.
• Apply cool, wet compresses to head, nape of the neck, abdomen, back, wrists or feet, or do a sponge bath.
• Wet Sheet Wrap: Use a wet sheet that has been wrung out so that it is not dripping. Wrap the child so that a single layer of wet sheet is touching all skin, except the face. Cover the child with a wool blanket. The child may fuss at first, but will usually calm down within a few minutes. Keep wrapped for up to 40 minutes based on child’s comfort. This is not recommended for babies less than 2 months.
• Children more than 2 months of age can be given children’s aspirin every 4-6 hours if the child is uncomfortable, can’t sleep or the fever is greater than 104 F. The original concern that giving children and infants aspirin may cause Reye’s syndrome has not been conclusive. Aspirin is a much safer alternative than Tylenol due to the risk of liver failure at only twice the maximum dosage.
Dr. Christopher Lepisto, a GJ Free Press health columnist, graduated as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit http://www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.
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