While fever is a good sign it is also important not to let a raised temperature get too high. A high temperature can be uncomfortable and children can become irritable.
In very young children with a high temperature there is a risk of convulsions, which is why it’s important to keep temperature under control.
The range of normal body temperature is 36-37 degrees C (96.8-98.6F). Anything over 37C (100F) is a fever, although the height a temperature reaches is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the seriousness of the sickness.
A fever is not itself an illness, but rather a symptom of one. Body temperature also reflects the time of day and activity level: after a very strenuous game of football, for example, the temperature could temporarily be over 38C (100.4F).
A temperature of over 37.7C (100F) is always serious in a baby under six months. If the temperature remains high, there is also a slight risk of a convulsion occurring.
Treating a raised temperature
1. If you suspect that your child has a fever, take his temperature, then check it again in 20 minutes to see if it has varied. Note down each reading.
2. Put your child to bed and remove most of his clothing, even if the room is cool. A child with a fever need only be covered by a light sheet.
3. Lower a temperature of over 40C (104F) by sponging your child all over with tepid water. But take the temperature every five minutes and stop tepid sponging when the temperature drops to 38C (100.4F). Never use cold water for this as it causes the blood vessels to constrict, preventing heat loss and therefore driving the temperature up.
4. We now know that a raised temperature is the body’s way of containing infections because viruses can’t multiply at high temperature. So a raised temperature shouldn’t be lowered.
5. Give paracetamol elixir only if other methods of reducing the fever have failed. Never give aspirin to a child under the age of 12.
6. Encourage your child to drink as much liquid as possible by offering small amounts of fluid at regular intervals.
Should I call the doctor?
* Consult your doctor immediately if your child is under six months old.
* Consult your doctor immediately if your child has a convulsion, if he has had a convulsion in the past, or if febrile convulsions run in the family.
* Consult your doctor as soon as possible if the fever lasts for more than 24 hours.
* Consult your doctor if you are worried about any other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea or a rash.
What might the doctor do?
The course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the fever. If the cause is bacterial infection, antibiotics will probably be prescribed. If the cause is an ailment like chicken-pox, or a common cold, then most likely no medication will be given, just advice on how to make your child comfortable.
Dos and don’ts
* Change the sheets on your child’s bed frequently to make him feel comfortable and cover him with a sheet only.
* Place a cold compress or a wet facecloth on your child’s forehead.
* Relax all routines. To my mind, a sick child deserves an easy life. So give him treats to eat, ice cream or yoghurt for a sore throat, comforting puddings, favourite games to play on their bed, or put a TV in his room temporarily.
* Wake your child to take his temperature. Sleep’s more important.
* Force the pace. Your child will soon let you know when he’s feeling better.