Fevers are a major worry for new parents. It’s not just knowing that our kids are in discomfort; but it’s also the way we internalize these things and imagine how we would feel if we were the ones with the high temperature.
But where fevers are concerned, babies have us grown-ups beat: a temperature that would be alarmingly high for us is something a little one takes in stride. In fact, while our parenting instincts are urging us to “do something!,” the wisest course of action is usually to do very little. Here are a few guidelines to be aware of the next time you’re up in the middle of the night worrying about your daughter’s or son’s fever.
Watch how they’re acting
As long as they’re reasonably comfortable, kids over six months usually don’t have to be treated for a fever. (It’s a good idea to consult your pediatrician if they’re younger than that.) So if they’re drinking, eating, sleeping, and playing like they normally do (with an allowance for the fact that they’re not feeling well), you can wait to see if the fever goes down on its own. Just keep their room on the cool side, make sure their clothes aren’t making them too warm, encourage them to drink lots of fluids (especially water), check that they’re going to the bathroom like they usually do, and see that they get plenty of rest.
Some don’ts to keep in mind
Don’t treat a fever with aspirin — it can cause upset stomachs, intestinal bleeding, and it has even been linked to a serious condition called Reye syndrome. Don’t use a cold sponge or rubbing alcohol, either. Cold water can cause shivering, which can actually increase your child’s temperature, and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol can have serious side effects as well.
If you have to treat a fever
Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are both safe and effective treatments for kids with fever (as well as other aches and pains), and they both come in liquid and chewable tablets. Just be sure to consult with your pediatrician as to what they recommend and the correct dosage for your child. And be sure to check the label of any other medication your child is taking — it could contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If it does, let your doctor know so they can factor that into your child’s medication schedule.
And don’t forget that the best treatment is usually a healthy dose of patience and time. As with so many things in the years ahead, you’ll get through this.
For further reading
healthychildren.org on fevers