Taking the fear out of childhood fevers

Taking the fear out of childhood fevers

!Dr. Saliba

When should a parent rush his child to a pediatrician’s office or a hospital emergency room? It’s a question that worries a father or mother, every time symptoms indicate sudden illness.

“Of all symptoms of illness, fever is what alarms parents the most because many believe a fever will result in seizures or brain damage,” noted Dr. Georges N. Saliba, Medical Director of the Pediatric Emergency Room at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

“This is actually a myth,” affirmed the Venezuelan-born doctor.”Fever is a result of infection,” he explained.“Infections are divided between viruses and bacteria. Slight fever can be treated with an over-the-counter antipyretic such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprophen (Advil or Motrin).

“If the child’s fever comes down and is active, eating normally and drinking liquids, the fever most likely is a virus and the child does not need to be taken to the emergency room.

“One must take care to ensure giving the correct dosage, since the instructions on over-the-counter medicinal always recommend a minimum dosage. Children who weigh more may need a higher dosage.The medications do not act according to the age of the child, but according to weight.”

If the fever persists and the child appears very frail or cries frequently, despite having been given the correct antipyretic dosage, the sickness is usually bacterial and requires antibiotics prescribed by a physician, he said.

“Do not wait until the child is overly-hot to determine if he has a fever,”warned Dr. Saliba. “Temperature must be taken with a thermometer. Anyone responsible for caring for the child must always have a thermometer available and know how to use it properly.

“Thermometers come in Fahrenheit (F) or Celsius (C) degrees, two different but equivalent measurements.

“It is most important that an infant (under three months) with a temperature of 101.5F or 38.05C be seen by a doctor immediately. At that early age,it isn’t necessary to achieve a high fever to be very ill.

“Children older than three months of age, with a temperature of 101F or 38.5C, are still considered to have a fever. A temperature of 103F or 39C is a high fever.

“In cases involving a cold or flu, fevers generally will diminish with rest and proper care,” Dr. Saliba concluded. “However, even a mildly-ill child who also has asthma or another chronic condition can complicate the flu and should be seen as soon as possible.”

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