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Fever in children

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Monitor temp

It is very important to monitor temperature periodically. However, at times it becomes very difficult to take the temperature of a squirming child. But it's one of the most important tools that helps in determining if a child has an illness or infection. The best method used for taking the temperature depends on a child's age.


For kids younger than 3 months:

The most reliable reading can be taken by using a digital thermometer to take the rectal temperature. Moreover, electronic ear thermometers are not recommended for children younger than 3 months as their ear canals are usually too small.


For kids between 3 months to 4 years old:

A digital thermometer can be used to take the rectal temperature as well as axillary temperature. However, axillary temperature are less accurate. In this case an electronic ear thermometer can also be used to take the temperature inside the ear canal.


For kids 4 years or older:

A digital thermometer can be used to take an oral temperature, if the child cooperates. However, the tympanic method with an electronic ear thermometer or axillary method with a digital thermometer can be used in case of kids with frequent coughs or blocked nose.

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Medicines to reduce temp

Medicines may be given in case the child is fussy or appears to be uncomfortable. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be given based on the package recommendations for age or weight. HOWEVER, never give aspirin to a child without consulting the doctor due to its association with Reye syndrome. 

Infants under 2 months old should not be given any medication for fever without consulting the doctor. However, it should be remembered that fever medication will temporarily bring down the temperature and give relief. But these medicines will not be able to treat the cause behind the fever.


Dress of the child

The children should never be overdressed indoors even in the winter. Overdressing and over bundling keeps the body from cooling using evaporation, radiation, conduction, or convection and the temperature may rise. The children should be dressed in a single layer of clothing. However, they can be covered with a sheet or light blanket.


Sponge bath

A sponge bath usually makes the child more comfortable and also brings down the temperature. However, only lukewarm water should be used as cool water or ice packs/cold baths may cause shivering and may actually rise the body temperature. The child should be put in a few inches of warm water. Thereafter use a sponge or washcloth to wet the skin of the body, arms and legs. Contrary to the popular folk remedy to reduce fever, under no circumstances use alcohol as it may cause poisoning when absorbed through the skin. 


Protect from dehydration

The child should be protected from dehydration. He should be given plenty of fluids as fever causes the child to lose fluids more rapidly. Fluids like soup, ice pops, and flavored gelatin may be given. Water is not a good choice as it does not contain the necessary electrolytes and glucose. However, drinks containing caffeine like colas and tea should not be given as they cause increased urination. The child should urinate light-colored urine at least once in every 4 hours.


Monitor for signs of serious illness

The child should be constantly monitored for signs of serious illness. However, the illness is probably not serious if the child is still interested in playing, eating and drinking well, alert, and smiling. The child should have normal skin color and looks well when his or her temperature comes down. 

A doctor should be consulted in case the following symptoms are manifested:
  • Severe headache or stiff neck and pain when the head is bent forward
  • Unusual skin rash or unusual eye sensitivity to bright light
  • Mental confusion or extreme listlessness or irritability
  • Any other unexplained symptoms 


When to seek emergency help

Seek emergency help in case of the following: 

  • The child is continuously crying, extremely irritable, is lethargic and has difficulty in waking.
  • The child has rash or purple spots that look like bruises on the skin, blue lips, tongue, or nails.
  • The soft spot of an infant seems to be bulging outward or sunken inwards
  • The child has a stiff neck, severe headache, limpness or refusal to move. The child has seizure or abdominal pain.
  • The child faces difficulty in breathing that doesn't get better when the nose is cleared.
  • The child is leaning forward and drooling.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: November 23, 2013