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Health Tips for Parents

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Health Tips for Parents

 
2011 Issues

Should I treat my child’s fever?

05/01/2011

HT-May2011-Boy and Mom FeverA child’s fever can be anxiety-provoking for many parents, who often do anything possible to bring their child’s temperature back to normal. But parents should understand that a fever may actually benefit generally healthy children.

A current report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) attempts to clarify guidelines for treatment of fevers and to remind parents that a fever is usually just the body’s natural defense mechanism against infections. Lowering a fever may actually prolong an illness. The AAP recommends that, in general, parents should only treat a fever if it makes their child feel uncomfortable.

A low-grade fever is considered to be a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and a high-grade fever to be anything above 102 degrees. “Parents need to know the temperature itself is not the primary problem,” explains Carlos Lerner, M.D., pediatrician, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “Instead of focusing on the number on the thermometer, parents should be watchful of their child’s general appearance and behavior.”

“We stress that the reason to reduce the fever is for the comfort of the child, and not to reduce the temperature,” Dr. Lerner explains. “Thus, if a child seems comfortable, behaves and appears normal, there is no reason to treat the fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen,” advises Dr. Lerner. “Sometimes treating the fever may cause adverse side effects that are worse than leaving the fever alone.” Fever reducers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally very safe when given correctly, but they can have rare but serious effects. Aspirin should never be given to children.

Home remedies, such as a tepid bath, are rarely necessary to treat fevers and have not been shown to be effective in lowering temperatures. Keeping your child well hydrated, well rested and comfortable is usually the best treatment. Parents should monitor their child’s behavior and appearance and contact their healthcare provider for advice if they are concerned.

THT-May2011-Fever Check Upreating a fever

In most cases, a child with a fever can be observed and/or treated at home by letting the illness run its course. “It is important for parents to know when a child with a fever needs to be evaluated by a healthcare provider, when the fever should be treated, and to be aware of the proper medications and dosage guidelines for treating the fever,” notes Dr. Lerner.

Symptoms parents should watch for:

  • Labored or rapid breathing 
  • Poor interaction with others
  • Dehydration
  • Unusual purple rashes
  • Lethargy and discomfort
  • Any fever in infants under 3 months

 

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.





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