Many of us are familiar with this scenario; you get home from work, and you notice that your child isn’t as playful as he normally is. In fact, he seems disinterested in everything going on around him. A couple of hours later, he is burning up, and you wonder whether you should rush him to hospital, for what is obviously fever.
What is Fever?
Fever is an abnormally high body temperature. The normal body temperature is about 37oC, though there can be slight variations of 36.5oC to 37.5oC throughout the day. You measure temperature by placing a thermometer in the mouth, armpit, or in the child’s bottom. Rectal temperature is the most accurate measurement. If you are a parent, it’s advisable to have a thermometer at home. You can get one at most chemists.
Though fever in itself is not a disease, it is often an indicator of underlying disease.
When one has a fever, the body feels hot. Older children who can talk may complain of feeling cold. They may also have headaches, have no appetite, and show general lack of interest in activities that normally interest them. Younger children may just be irritable and refuse to feed. The rectal temperature will be above 38oC.
Causes of Fever
- Bacterial infections, ear infections, pneumonia (chest infection), and meningitis
- Viral infections such as common cold, flu, diarrhea
- Tumors, and other conditions, though these are less common.
- Unlike what is widely believed, teething does not cause fever, but puts the child at risk of getting infections since they put just above anything in the mouth to relieve itching. A mild fever may indicate a slight inflammation or soreness of the gums.
When should you worry?
Not all fevers should get you rushing to the emergency room in the middle of the night. A low grade fever is not reason for excess worry, especially if your baby has no other symptoms. Most fevers caused by a viral infection clear in two or three days. Go to hospital if your child has high fever (above 39oC).
Fever above 42oC can harm the baby’s brain, and require very quick action. Very high fever can also cause convulsions even if there is no infection
- As you rush your child to hospital, you can use the other methods to lower the fever, such as reducing the layers of his clothes, and sponge bathing him with tepid water.
- If he his listless and lethargic. The child is not their usual happy self, is irritable and unwilling to feed.
- Is unconscious.
- Has difficulty breathing or breathes fast
- Has seizures
- In under three months and has a fever
- Has a fever that persist beyond 2-3 days or one that does not improve or gets worse despite treatment.
- Has another underlying condition such as cancer and sickle cell disease.
One of the most common tests for fever is a complete blood count, which will identify the infection. Other tests will be guided by the symptoms, and may include x-rays and urine tests. The doctor will then advise you on the best treatment based on their findings.
Home remedies for Fever
- Taking off most of his clothes to help reduce the heat.
- Tepid sponging. Dip a towel in Luke warm water, wring it, and wipe the baby’s body to cool them down.
- Give the child lots of fluid to avoid dehydration.
In addition, the doctor may prescribe some medicines – usually paracetamol, as syrups or suppositories for use whenever the child has a fever. These syrups can also be bought at a pharmacy or chemist. Do not use aspirin.
To keep fever at bay, prevent infection.
It is difficult to prevent fever in children. On fact, a fever is a sign that your child’s immune system is active and fighting disease. However, it is possible to reduce infections through the following:
- Ensure that your child gets all immunizations as scheduled.
- Ensure proper hygiene including hand-washing
- Vitamin A supplementation every 6 months
- A good diet, adequate exercise and sleep will boost the immune system.