Fever in itself is not a disease. It is a symptom resulting from a disease, most often from an infection such as the flu or another childhood disease.

Every parent already had to deal with a feverish child and none of them have reacted the same way… Some don’t give it enough importance and react too late, others panic as soon as there is a slight sign of fever and believe that their child will be brain damaged!

Fever is important, but not as much as the disease it is hiding! It may be the H1N1 flu, an ear infection, the measles or many other childhood diseases but it could also hide a urinary infection or even meningitis…

Bacterial or viral?

When a child has fever, one of the challenges is to determine what is causing the fever, or at least, to make sure the fever isn’t bacterial. The difference is crucial since viral infections are not treated with antibiotics, contrarily to bacterial infections. In general, the younger the child, the more he seems sick and the more persistent his fever is, the more chances the infection is bacterial. Furthermore, the general state of the child is as important as the intensity of the fever. For example, a child who looks very ill, but only has a slight fever may be sicker than an active and energetic child with a higher fever.

As a matter of fact, fever is one of the body’s normal defence mechanisms and should not always be lowered. Fever highly stimulates the immune system. Reducing the fever too rapidly decreases the amount of stimulation the immune system receives. It is good, to a certain degree, to have fever.

When giving a child acetaminophen or ibuprofen, it is mainly to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of fever rather than to lower the fever itself. However, there comes a time when you need to react (+ 38.5°C) and give the appropriate medication. The help of a pharmacist is essential at this point because he will be able to recommend the right medication, but most importantly, he will help you find the right dosage.

Thermometer and temperature

The rectal passage and the ear thermometer are the best ways to get temperature of a child under 5 years of age. The temperature under the armpit is not precise and is not recommended. After the age of 5, you can use an oral thermometer since the child is able to hold it still in his mouth.

The temperature varies from one thermometer to another. When using an oral or ear thermometer, there is fever when the mercury exceeds 37.5°C (99.5° F). With a rectal thermometer, fever begins at 38°C (100.4°F).

What are the normal gaps in body temperature?

The normal variation in temperatures is as follows:

  • Rectal temperatures: from 36.6 to 38° C (from 97.9 to 100.4°F)
  • Oral temperature: from 35.5 to 37.5°C (from 95.9 to 99.5°F)
  • Axillary temperature: from 34.7 to 37.3°C (from 94.5 to 99.1°F)

There are few ways to lower your child’s temperature and make him more comfortable. Dress your child with light clothing, but do not have him naked; this will make your child shiver and it will increase the body temperature! If your child is shivering, warm him up with a blanket and remove the blanket as soon as the shivering has stopped. Warm baths may also help but most children react badly to warm baths! Do not apply cold bandages, give cold baths or give the child a sponge bath with alcohol.

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