Treating Fever

By Jennifer Bright

November 12, 2019 6 min read

In adults and older children, fever can be a friend. When your child is sick, their body temperature rises to fight the germs that cause infection and make their body a less comfy place for the germs to be. The fever itself isn't an illness but rather a symptom.

If your toddler or child is playing comfortably, is eating and drinking, is alert and smiling and has a temperature lower than 102 F, you might not even want to treat it. You could let the fever run its course.

If your child is younger than 3 years old and has a fever of 102.2 F, call their doctor for advice before giving your toddler any medication.

If your child is younger than 3 months old and develops any fever, call the doctor. It could be a sign of a serious illness.

Here's how our mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — check and treat their own children's fevers:

"I take my kids' temperature at the drop of a hat," says Katherine Dee, M.D., a mom of three and owner of Glow Medispa in Seattle. "Sometimes, a fever can be their only sign of an illness, and it can make them feel very crummy. One time, when my twins were 4 years old, they both were behaving terribly, and I thought they were regressing until I got back to the car and took their temperatures. Both were over 101! I don't use ear thermometers, because most kids don't like them. Instead, I use the type of thermometer you swipe across the forehead. That's the easiest way to get a read on a kid."

"When a child has a fever, it's important to maintain adequate hydration," says Stacey Weiland, M.D., a mom of three and a gastroenterologist in Denver. "Research suggests that for every 1-degree increase in body temperature, there's a 10% to 15% increase in the baby's metabolic rate and a significant loss of body water. I used to offer my babies fluids such as Pedialyte or chicken soup."

"I think sometimes when doctors prescribe medication for kids' colds, they're really treating Mommy," says Susan Besser, M.D., a mom of six grown children, a grandmother of seven and a family physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "I never gave my kids medicine just because it tastes good. That's a really bad behavior to get into. If they had a fever of 101 F or higher and they looked sick, I'd give them an age- and weight-appropriate dose of fever-reducing medication. If a child has a fever and also muscle aches, I'd give him ibuprofen (Motrin), which has an anti-inflammatory effect. But if a child has a sensitive stomach, I'd give him acetaminophen (Tylenol) because ibuprofen can irritate the stomach."

"When my sons got a fever, I didn't give them any medicine if they were still playing and in good spirits," says Leena Shrivastava Dev, M.D., a mom of two sons and a pediatrician in Maryland. "I had to abide by the day care's rule of keeping them out of school until they were fever-free for 24 hours. That wasn't a problem because if they weren't feeling well, I'd want them to be home anyway."

Dr. Rallie's Tips

Like all toddlers, my boys got fevers from time to time. Rather than immediately give them a fever-reducing medication, I'd try to wait out the fever for a while because I wanted to know what was causing it. In the vast majority of cases, fever is a result of some type of infection. It's important to pinpoint the source if at all possible, because the type of infection determines the best treatment.

Fever-reducing medications also reduce pain, and pain helps you pinpoint the source of infection. If a mom gives her toddler acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the first sign of a fever, it becomes far more difficult to determine the site of the toddler's pain and the source of his infection.

Fevers also help the body overcome the infection. A low-grade fever is the body's way of "pasteurizing" the blood. Fever also generally slows children down and encourages them to rest or sleep. Children with fevers should be allowed to stay home from day care or school so they can sleep a little longer in the morning, take a nap and avoid the physical and mental rigors of school. Staying home from school also helps prevent the spread of the illness. — Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., mom of three, nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky

Mommy M.D. Guides-Recommended Product

Did you know you can treat a baby's fever with a suppository? Suppositories are a great option for when children are tight-lipped, spitting up or spitting out liquid fever medication. Parents will know their child received the exact dosage of acetaminophen required for their age every time. Unlike other liquid fever medications, FeverAll is fever and pain relief made simple: It doesn't contain parabens, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or preservatives.

FeverAll infant strength is the only acetaminophen suppository approved for children as young as 6 months. FeverAll costs approximately $7 for a pack of six.

Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran-owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy M.D. Guides team of 150-plus mommy M.D.s and co-author of "The Mommy M.D. Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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