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Four Fever Facts Every Parent Should Know

When do you act on a fever? It isn't always obvious. Like so many things you do as a parent, it's part know-how and part instinct. These facts and tips may help you keep your cool:

  1. Remember: Fever is not in itself a sickness. It's one of the body's protective mechanisms. During an illness, it can turn on the body's immune system to fight infection.
  2. It's more urgent in a new baby. An infant younger than 12 weeks with a rectal temperature above 100.4° F should be seen in the emergency room immediately. Also, a fever in a child with a cardiovascular or lung disease or a weak immune system could be more serious – so call your child's doctor immediately.
  3. You know your child best. How is he or she acting? A child older than 1 year who has a fever but is eating and sleeping and has playful moments may be OK to be watched at home.
  4. Some fevers warrant a call and some need medical care. Don't ever hesitate to talk with your child's doctor if you have concerns or questions – or to seek medical care if you think your child is very ill. Talk with your child's doctor if your child has a fever that:
    • Persists and your child has been on antibiotics for 48 hours or longer
    • Returns after your child has been fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication
    • Lasts for 72 hours or longer

Also, let the doctor know if your child has recently traveled abroad.

Call 911 if your child:

  • Has severe difficulty breathing
  • Is very weak or has lowered consciousness
  • Is not moving or is unresponsive

Rx: Extra snuggles

Most kids with fevers need plenty of cool, clear fluids, light clothing and a little extra love. But, if your child still seems uncomfortable, you may use a feverreducing medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.* It should say it's made for children.

Ask your child's doctor which fever reducer to use for your child. And, follow the directions precisely. Be especially careful not to give too much or too often.**

*Don't give aspirin to children. It poses a risk of Reye's syndrome – a rare but serious brain disease – to children younger than 18 years. It should never be used except as directed by a doctor. Don't give ibuprofen to infants younger than age 6 months.

**Don't give over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to children younger than age 2 because of the risk of life-threatening side effects. Also, these medications may contain fever-reducing drugs. Combining them with fever reducers can result in overdosing. Before giving any medicine, check with your child's doctor. And, read and follow package directions to be sure a medicine is appropriate for your child.

Source: Healthy Mind Healthy Body®, Karis Gabrielson, R.N., October 2011.

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