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ASK THE EXPERT: How to Effectively Treat a Child's Fever


Fevers can be tough on both parent and child. Dr Leo Hamilton from International Medical Clinic explains the fever and what you should do if your child is afflicted with it.

A fever is usually a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. In response to the fever, the body’s thermostat has been reset so the body thinks it is normal for the higher temperature. The main reason to treat a fever is if your child is miserable or in pain, as a fever, by itself, does not cause damage to the brain or any of the other organs.

 

What Causes a Fever?

The most common cause is a viral infection, and this form of fever does not require antibiotics. The second is a bacterial infection, which is treated with the suitable antibiotics. The third is a post-vaccination fever, which happens when a child is administered a live vaccine, especially for illnesses such as chickenpox or MMR. Temperatures in a postvaccination fever can run up 39.5 degrees Celsius and usually lasts for 24 to 48 hours.

 

How to Measure a Fever

Doctors defi ne a fever as 38 degrees Celsius or higher. Temperatures taken either in the ear or rectally are the most accurate, and can vary during the day, even in healthy children. You do not need to give any medication unless your child is miserable, as fever medications are not a treatment and will not alter the course of the illness.

 

Managing Fevers at Home

Paracetamol is a medication that relieves pain and lowers fever. There are many brand names including Calpol, Panadol, and Tylenol. This can be given every six hours. Ibuprofen can also be used to relieve fever and pain, but is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory
medication, so it works via a different pathway in the body. Brand names include Nurofen, Advil and Motrin and can also be given every six hours. The dosage for each of these medications should be calculated by weight, so it is best to follow your doctor’s prescription exactly. It’s important to read the labels carefully, as Paracetamol comes in different strengths. Note that these medications can be alternated if necessary. Refrain from giving children Aspirin, as this can cause Reye’s Syndrome. You should also give children plenty of clear fl uids in small but frequent amounts to help prevent dehydration, and dress your child in light, loose-fi tting clothing to keep them comfortable. They may look like they are shivering when they have a fever but try not to overdress or wrap them in blankets as this can make them feel hotter.

 

When You Should See a Doctor

It’s important to take children to a doctor if they are under six months of age with a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, if the fever has lasted longer than five days, or if they become irritable, drowsy or unresponsive. Look out for vomiting, diarrhoea and a refusal to drink, as this may be a sign of impending dehydration. Other signs include fits or seizures, non-blanching rashes, breathing problems, and complaints of a stiff neck or eyes that hurt when they are in the light.

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