What Should I Do If My Child Has Fever?

Worried about your child’s fever? Feeling alarmed? Don’t be. Fever is not dangerous unless there are other symptoms. These first-aid steps can help keep your child comfortable.

By Aarthi Arun

What Should I Do If My Child Has Fever?

Whenever a child has a fever, the parents become anxious and don’t know what to do. But, most of the time, fever is not a cause for concern. In fact, fever means that your child's immunity is working to fight off an infection.

In humans, if the body temperature rises above 98.4° F, it is called fever. However, fever up to 105° F is harmless, unless your child has a chronic illness or a history of febrile seizures (ones that occur because of high fever). Even the latter are found to have no long-term complications in children. The best way to judge how your child is doing is by checking his behaviour, rather than frantically using a thermometer to check his body temperature.

Sometimes, for viral fever, all you need to do is keep your child comfortable. Here are some things that you can do to help your child:

  1. Check temperature: There is no point in obsessively checking your child’s temperature every half-an-hour. It will take a couple of days for your child's infection to clear and the fever to come down. So, check for fever a couple of times a day, and watch out for an increase in temperature or worsening of symptoms. If your child has a temperature above 104° F, take her to a hospital right away.
    Note: Opt for a digital thermometer. If you're using a mercury thermometer, ensure you keep it out of reach of your child. If the thermometer breaks, mercury can leak out. Mercury is a toxic chemical that can cause severe health issues like muscle weakness and nerve damage.
  2. Try paracetamol: Paracetamol (also called acetaminophen) can help bring your child's temperature down and relieve other symptoms like body aches or headaches. Make sure to read the instructions thoroughly and offer only the appropriate dose for her age and weight. Look for the ones that are specially made for children as giving adult medicines can be dangerous.

    Fever is common in children and is a sign that their body is fighting an infection. Read how you can lower your child's temperature during fever.

    In case, your child is taking other over-the-counter medicines for a cough or cold, check with your doctor if paracetamol can be combined with them. Remember, paracetamol is not going to reduce the duration of your child's illness — it will only bring down your child's temperature by a degree or two, which is enough to make him comfortable. Expect anywhere between two to five days for your child's infection to go away.
  3. Keep the room ventilated: Stuffy and warm rooms can make your child's fever worse. Open the windows, or switch on the fan or air conditioner to keep the room cool and the air moving. Covering up your child with thick, warm clothes will only increase her temperature; so, dress her in light, comfortable clothing. If your child is feeling cold, use a thin blanket.
  4. Give a lukewarm water sponge bath: When your child has a fever even after taking a dose of paracetamol, you can give her a sponge bath with lukewarm water. Make your child sit or lie down comfortably. Take a clean towel or sponge, dip it in lukewarm water and gently pat her torso, arms and legs with it. This will help in bringing the temperature down.
    Remember, cold water can bring the chills; so, keep the water lukewarm between 89.96° F and 95° F. You can give the bath for about 20 minutes. If your child is shivering, stop the bath immediately because shivering can increase the temperature.
  5. Offer liquids: Fever can cause dehydration, which can make your child uncomfortable. Soup and fruit juices are good to replenish your child's energy levels. It is normal for your child's appetite to take a hit when she has a fever; so, don't force her if she doesn't want to eat. Offer foods that she finds appealing. If your child has diarrhoea, give her oral rehydration drinks to compensate for the mineral loss. A simple solution of water with a pinch of salt and sugar will also work.
  6. Keep your child at home: Rest is the key to your child's recovery. Staying home will also prevent the infection from spreading to others. Your child should rest in a quiet room.

    Safety Note: If your child has a fever for more than three days or she has other symptoms like severe diarrhoea, vomiting, a stiff neck, difficulty in breathing or rashes, don't hesitate to call your doctor. Look out for unusual irritability, confusion or other uncommon symptoms as well. Also, fever above 106° F is dangerous as it can cause permanent brain damage. But, it is rare and will likely occur due to an underlying condition. 

With inputs from Dr Srinivas Prasad B R, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist.

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