What Parents Should Know About Fevers

February 07, 2020

It’s easy to become worried when your child has a fever. Not only are fevers uncomfortable for your child physically, but it can be hard to watch him or her suffer.

However, fevers are actually an important bodily function. Fevers signal that the immune system is fighting off an infection of some sort.

What Are Fevers For?

Fevers are not caused by infections themselves; instead, they are the body’s method of killing bacterial or viral infections.

See, bacteria and viruses thrive at your child’s normal body temperature. The body then increases the temperature through shivering, limiting blood flow to extremities, and boosting the body’s energy use.

By increasing the temperature, your child’s immune can create a less welcoming environment for bacteria or viruses.

As your child’s body temperature increases, the infection weakens. This makes it easier for white blood cells and other parts of the body’s immune system to destroy the infection.

When And How Should You Treat a Fever?

You may be tempted to treat a fever right away, but since it’s a natural part of fighting infection, you do not have to address the fever right away.

Instead, you should focus on making your child feel better. Primarily, ensure that your child is drinking plenty of fluids and resting a lot. Additionally, you can give your child fever-reducing drugs. However, remember that these won’t get rid of the infection; they will simply reduce fever symptoms temporarily.

Avoid external methods such as a cool bath unless your child says that it will make them feel better. The cold temperatures will make the body work even harder and expend more energy to keep the body temperature high.

Can Fevers Damage the Brain?

Fevers themselves cannot damage the brain. They are simply the method by which the body fights off infection.

However, a high fever could be a sign of a serious infection that may cause brain or other organ damage.

When in doubt, speak to a doctor.

When Should I Visit a Pediatrician or Emergency Department?

In some cases, a visit to your child’s pediatrician or an emergency department may be necessary. If your child is acting odd, refusing liquids, and/or not feeling better after taking fever medications, you should see a doctor.

Infants with a fever may necessitate an emergency visit as well because their immune systems are not developed enough to handle an infection. You should take them to an emergency department immediately if their temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have a younger child that is acting fine and drinking their fluids, you can likely wait about 24 hours before visiting your child’s pediatrician; for older children, you can wait about 48-72 hours.

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