If there is one thing that makes parents very nervous, it is that their child has a fever. However, this temperature rise is not a disease, but a symptom for which, according to Julio Maset , Cinfa’s doctor , “we do not always have to run to the hospital for this circumstance.”
In most cases, it is a defense mechanism with which the body tries to destroy germs: since viruses and bacteria proliferate at temperatures that oscillate around 37º C, our «thermostat» increases body temperature to activate mechanisms that protect us and to increase the effectiveness of our immune system. “Therefore, if a child has a fever, he should look for and treat the problem that causes it, which is usually an infection,” says the doctor.
If we suspect that our son has a fever, it is important to confirm it by measuring the temperature with a thermometer (not made of glass), which we will place under the armpit ; it is not enough to touch your forehead with your hands or lips. Values between 37.1º and 37.5º indicate fever, while, from this last figure, it is considered that there is fever. “ But these values should not haunt parents, nor should they be seen as a rigid norm and applicable to all children equally. In fact, it can happen that a child is 38.5ºC and is well and another has little energy or vitality at 37.7ºC », clarifies this expert.
Ensures that it is worth evaluating each particular case taking into account various aspects. One of the most fundamental is the child’s age: if he is under three months and has a fever, we should always take him to the hospital, just as if he is between three and six months and the fever exceeds 39ºC.
Breathing, skin and general condition
In other cases, before going to the Emergency Department, pediatric experts remember that, when faced with childhood fever, we must look at three factors, according to Dr. Maset: “The first aspect to take into account is breathing: you have to detect if the child is breathing faster than usual , if the nostrils are more open or if the spaces between the ribs are sinking. The second is skin circulation or skin appearance: increased paleness , a bluish hue, or the appearance of red or marble-veined spots are warning signs . Finally, we must look at the general state of the child; that is, how he is and behaves: if he is irritable, if he cries more, if his interest in his surroundings is less, if he continues to eat normally or has lost his appetite, etc. ».
If we observe an alteration of the previous aspects or if the fever is high (more than 38ºC) and does not go down with the medication, if more than 24-48 hours pass and the child continues with fever or falls , with intense crying or refuses feeding , the general guideline will be to go to the Health Center so that the pediatrician evaluates the case. We should also go to the doctor if we observe that the child becomes dehydrated (cries without tears or does not urinate or does so in a small amount).
As a maxim to remember, Julio Maset insists parents that “in the face of the fever of the little ones, common sense is our best ally. And seeking your well-being by regularly unzipping and hydrating you while monitoring your progress is our best answer. ”
- Let your own body act. We must monitor its evolution in case it worsens, but let your own immune system fight the infection. The priority is not to treat or lower the fever at all costs, but, in general, you have to treat the child and try to relieve him.
- Always use a thermometer. Do not use your hands or lips to try to find out if the child has a fever, since the correct way to measure temperature is with a thermometer. Preferably, it is not made of glass, due to the risk of breakage.
- Do not overcoat or remove too much clothing. Do not undress the child completely; keep it with the necessary clothes to keep it cool. Also, do not overheat the room or the house.
- Hydrate him often. Give her water and other fluids that contain carbohydrates if possible every so often. For example, juices, porridge and smoothies. If you are still breastfeeding, continue breastfeeding normally.
- Do not bathe or scrub it. Giving him cold water baths, alcohol scrubs, or damp cloths is discouraged.
- Monitor your general condition. Observe how you are, even at night, to see if you are more irritable, tired, or cry more than normal. Stay tuned for possible worsening, signs of dehydration, or new symptoms.
- Better at home. It is preferable that, while the fever lasts, the minor does not go to kindergarten, nursery school or college. Tell these centers that the little one is sick.
- Identify when to go to the ER. You should go directly to the Emergency Department if the baby is under 3 months old or if it is between 3 and 6 months old and the fever is over 39ºC; if you have a fever greater than 40ºC, seizures, stiff neck, shortness of breath, vomiting or diarrhea abundant, little urine or red spots on the skin; the fever lasts more than five days; or other symptoms such as sore throat, earaches or a rash also appear. For other situations and if you have any questions, make an appointment with the pediatrician at your Health Center.
- About medication. Read the package leaflet and follow your pediatrician’s instructions on the appropriate antipyretic drug doses for your weight and age. Do not give ibuprofen and paracetamol at the same time, nor alternate or combine both medications, unless your doctor tells you to. Also, remember that paracetamol can be taken at any age, while ibuprofen is only indicated after 6 months. The use of acetylsalicylic acid in children is not recommended. You can repeat the dose if the child vomits within fifteen minutes after taking it.
- Fever cannot be prevented. In some cases, children may develop fever after vaccination, but the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen as a preventive measure against a possible febrile reaction is strongly discouraged, both in advance and immediately after receiving the vaccine. If in the following days the child has a fever and it appears annoying, we can give him an antipyretic or consult the pediatrician if necessary.