What is a fever?
Starve a fever, feed a cold? Parents are often confused about how to deal with their child's fever. Instead of going into panic mode, it is best to understand what a fever is to determine if it is an emergency situation or not.
A fever is one of the body's many adaptive functions, a way to deal with foreign substances or environments such as an infection. Viruses and bacteria live at body temperature. When your internal thermostat rises and creates a fever, white blood cells are activated and body temperature heats up to kill off potentially threatening bugs. In fact, research shows that medicating a child with an anti-fever drug for a low to moderate fever may interfere with this natural defense.
How to take your child's temperature
Normal body temperature in a child can vary. The average normal temperature values are:
Oral -- 36-37.5 C / 97-99 F
Under the arm (axillary) -- 35-37 C / 96.5-98.5 F
When selecting a thermometer, do not select a glass mercury thermometer. If this type of thermometer breaks, it is an environmental toxin and can cause serious harm to your child. Digital thermometers are the best and safest type to purchase and can be found in drug stores.
For children under 4, I recommend using the armpit method for taking a child's temperature.
For children over the age of 4, an oral digital temperature can be taken.
Dealing with a child's fever
A recent survey found that parents tend to treat high temperatures much more aggressively than health-care professionals do. Investigators found that only 43 per cent of parents (compared to 86 per cent of doctors and 64 per cent of nurses) knew that a fever below 100.4 F could be beneficial to a child. Most parents (compared to only 11 per cent of doctors) reported that they would treat a fever below 100.4 F even if the child did not have any other symptoms.
The following tips are helpful steps in lowering your child's fever:
1. Make sure to hydrate your child with water and fresh natural fruit juice. If breastfeeding, continue to do so.
2. If your child has lost their appetite for a couple of days, do not force feed them. Loss of appetite is an adaptive response associated with fever that allows the body to deal with the problem at hand.
3. Dress your child in loose, light clothing. Try to prevent shivering with clothing, light blankets or warm baths.
4. Bathing your child in lukewarm water can help to lower body temperature.
5. Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep and rest.
When should I call my doctor?
The following are guideline situations where your health-care professional should be consulted immediately.
• If a child under the age of 3 months develops a fever
• If your child is convulsing or hallucinating
• If your child's fever has not changed in over three days
• If your child is complaining of a stiff neck
• If your child has repeated vomiting and/or diarrhea
• If your child's fever is 40 C (or more) taken orally or 39.4 C in the armpit
Excerpted from alive magazine.
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of Winning the Food Fight: Every Parent's Guide to Raising a Healthy, Happy Child and The Natural Makeover Diet. For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.