Written by: Kerry Frommer Fierstein, MD, FAAP
In a recent article the American Academy of Pediatrics reviews the facts and fiction that surround fever in children and reminds nurses and pediatricians to better educate parents about fever.
Important fever facts:
The following information does not apply to infants under three months of age for whom you should contact your pediatrician urgently for any temperature of 100.4oF (38oC) or higher.
- There is no “normal” temperature. 98.6 is an average and many children will normally run a little higher or a little lower. In addition, throughout the day, a given child’s temperature will vary by as much as a full degree.
- Fever can be helpful in fighting infections. Fever slows down the growth of viruses and bacteria while activating our immune system.
- Higher fever does not necessarily mean a more seriously ill child. Most fevers, no matter how high, are brief and not dangerous. However, if your child has a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 48 hours you should see the doctor to discover the cause of the fever.
Fevers do not cause brain damage or death. Children with fevers above 104 degrees are not at increased risk of problems because of their temperature (the one exception is heat stroke, which usually occurs from over activity in warm weather.) Fevers can cause “febrile seizures” but these types of seizures, though scary to watch, do not cause any permanent effects. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) use will reduce the risk of fever seizures.
Parents should remember:
- The #1 reason to bring down your child’s fever is to make him/her more comfortable.
- It is not necessary to wake your child to give him/her fever medicine.
- Look at your child, not the thermometer. If your child is drinking, quietly playing, or sleeping, do not worry about fever. If your child looks poorly and is too weak to drink, he/she should be seen by the doctor regardless of the temperature.
Dr. Fierstein is a practicing pediatrician. Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Dr. Kerry Frommer Fierstein is a New Yorker all the way. She works atPediatric Health Associates, PC, a division of Allied Pediatrics of New York.