It’s a chilly winter evening and you’re in the kitchen preparing dinner. You realize your little one has been a bit too quiet. You take a peek and he’s lying on the couch a tad more tired than usual. He’s definitely not acting himself so you put your wrist to his forehead. Your little one has spiked a fever and you start to panic. Do you bring him in? Do you wait it out at home?
I’ll bet this scenario sounds familiar to most moms. The thing is, if you take the steps to educate and prepare yourself for that inevitable fever, you’ll be far less likely to panic and overreact when it hits.
Here’s our guide to all the facts a well prepared mom needs to know about fevers.
What exactly is a fever?
A fever is an elevated temperature over what is considered standard. A standard human body temperature is 98.6F. An elevated temperature is typically the result of a viral or bacterial infection. As the body attempts to fight off the attack, body temperature rises.
Though fevers are scary, they are also a sign that our bodies are working properly to protect us.
Why do children get fevers?
Since a fever is, essentially, a symptom of a larger issue, there is no simple answer as to why your child might have a fever. Fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. You may already be aware of the infection, what it is, and where it came from – but you might not.
Kids can pick up infections almost anywhere. In the winter, during the school months, and during flu season, it becomes even more likely. Think – stomach bugs and respiratory virus galore. Unfortunately, kids aren’t as conscious of covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough or even washing their hands. So it’s very easy for a child to get the “bugs” by being coughed on or by touching a common surface area like door knobs without even realizing it.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s also not uncommon for a child to spike a fever after receiving an immunization. This is simply a sign that the immune system is strong and functioning properly.
Symptoms of a Fever
Since a fever is an elevated body temperature, the very first symptoms or complaints from your little one will likely be chills and body aches. The most common symptoms are changes in appetite, mood, or behavior and activity level. And of course, an elevated body temperature.
What is the best way to measure if your child has a fever?
There are multiple different ways to measure your child’s temperature and some are more accurate than others. The biggest factor will be your child’s age. This will determine what the best type of thermometer to use will be. Temperature can be measured rectally, by ear, temporally, orally or axillary (armpit).
The Mayo Clinic offers the following thermometer recommendations based on your child’s age.
Birth to 3 months. Use a digital thermometer rectally or temporally.
3 months to 4 years. Use a digital thermometer to take a rectal, axillary or temporal temperature reading.
4 years and older. Use a digital thermometer to get an oral, axillary, or temporal temperature reading.
The key is – whatever method you choose, you must remain consistent. Switching thermometer types and comparing different methods each time you take your child’s temperature will only get confusing. To get acquainted with your child’s normal temperature range you’ll need to use the same type of thermometer every time.
At Home Care
Fevers and their accompanying symptoms can be very scary for moms, especially in very young children. Often times, parents choose to treat the fever too soon. If your child can handle the discomfort, give them some extra love and cuddles, but let their little body do what it was designed to do.
If you would like to take steps to mitigate the fever at home, here’s what I suggest:
You can give your child a common fever reducer like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Be sure to check the dosage instructions based on your child’s age and weight.
Change them into light-weight clothing.
Wrap them in a thin blanket
Make sure they stay hydrated by providing plenty of fluids.
When to Head to the Doctor
It’s so important to know when to contact your child’s physician or seek medical assistance.
These are general temperature guidelines for a high fever, by age:
The information presented here is meant only for informational purposes. It is not meant to diagnose, treat or provide health advice. Anything you read here should not substitute assistance from a medical doctor.
The winter has arrived and that means holidays, snow days, hot chocolate—and flu!
This is, of course, flu season and if you haven’t already gotten flu shots for yourself and your whole family, then you definitely need to take care of that ASAP.
But even with a flu shot, if your child is in a classroom of twenty students, think about that as a petri dish full of germs that are getting passed from one person to the next. Chances are they are going to get sick. (After all, the flu shot only takes care of certain strains of flu—not all of them.)
So if your little ones start complaining about chills and aches, here are a few things you can do to take care of their fever:
1. To cover or not to cover
One of the biggest misconceptions that comes with fever is that you should bundle up and sweat it out. This is not the best move to make.
First, you need to take your child’s temperature to make sure that they do, in fact, have a fever. But if they do, they may feel very cold and want to bundle as much as possible. Don’t!
This can actually make them overheat and sweat too much causing dehydration.
Your body’s chills and shivers is your system’s way of fighting off the infection. If you bundle up, you’re not letting your body do what it needs to do and the fever will just take longer to get over.
Then, cover them in a light to medium blanket. Be sure to change these blankets out regularly if they do start sweating as a sweaty blanket is just horrible to feel and can cause more shivering.
2. Stay hydrated
So, wrapping your child up has proven to be a fallacy. What about drinking lots of fluids? That one is right on the money.
You should definitely encourage your child to drink as much as possible. A fever will make you sweat, so drinking water will keep you from getting dehydrated, which will just add to the misery of the flu.
Give your child regular drinks of water and also mix in an occasional glass of orange juice as the Vitamin C will give them extra nutrients to fight the flu.
3. What about baths
Another common technique for dealing with fevers is to use cold baths to bring down the temperature.
This may be necessary for rapid cooling if the person is running a dangerously high temperature, it’s actually not a good idea for a standard fever. But you can help keep your kid comfortable with a lukewarm bath.
This will keep them warm and also help deal with the shivering. Just be sure to keep the bath no longer than 15 minutes or the water will get cold and that will defeat the purpose.
These tips for fever help you feel more prepared
No one likes having the flu, but it’s even tougher on moms who have to watch their child suffer, often with a feeling of helplessness. If you follow these tips, even though they may go against some things you’ve been told in the past, then you can help keep your little ones comfortable while their body fights off the fever.