Kevin Huang, BSc Pharm Student
Being sick is never fun. Especially when you’re a kid. With all the pain, fever and sore, it’s no surprise we make a big deal about it. We all have our family remedies, some better than others. But have you ever wondered, why are we treating fevers? Better yet. Do we need to treat them at all?
To start. Fevers are not a disease, but a symptom. Contrary to what some may believe, they’re not harmful to the children. Surprisingly, it’s a mechanism to fight off infections in the body. Lengthwise, fevers tend to recede within 72 hours (3 days).1 That being said, it’s still important to know how to monitor your child’s temperature to identify unusual events.
Measuring their Temperature
When deciding how to measure your child’s temperature, you must first consider their age group. Children under the age of 5 years should be assessed with rectal thermometers. Any temperatures over 38°C is indicative of a fever. It’s important to get the process right as the improper procedure may result in inaccurate results.
- Tip 1 – Avoid mercury-based thermometer. If these devices break, the child will be exposed to the harmful material.
- Tip 2 – When preparing the device, remember to clean it with soapy water and apply Vaseline on the instrument’s tip.
- Tip 3 – Insert the thermometer 2.5cm in depth. Upon hearing the beep (approximately 1 minute), remove the device for a reading.
For children over the age of 5, oral thermometers are the best of choices. Similar to rectal thermometers, a reading exceeding 37.5°C is a sign of fever.
- Tip 1 – Make sure the metal tip is placed under the tongue. Close the mouth and wait for 1 minute to hear the beep.
- Tip 2 – Rectal and oral thermometer are not interchangeable. Each device is designed for a specific purpose and using them incorrectly can lead to bad readings.
As stated earlier, fever is a beneficial process to manage an infection. As long as we keep a good eye on it, there isn’t really anything needed to be done. However, the major complaint of the fever is not the heat, but the pain and discomfort. So, what can we do to help?
When the fever gets out of hand, most people use medication as the next course of action. Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) and Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil®) are the most common medications used. These agents help to lower the fever and alleviate the pain. It’s important to choose the dose for children via weight as children will weigh differently amongst peers of the same age. Nonetheless, they should see relief within the next few days.
Finally, there are several more things you should consider when dealing with a sick child.1
- Do not treat your children (< 15 years old) with ASA (aspirin) as there is a risk of developing Reyes syndrome.
- If the fever lasts longer than 72 hours or if your child doesn’t see any benefits from the medications, seek medical attention.
- If the child develops unusual behaviours (easily irritated, lethargic), rashes or persistent coughs, seek medical attention.
- If your child is younger than 6 months old, contact your medical professional for further assessments.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are seen as equally effective. Remember to dose by weight and avoid using more than one medication at a time.
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- Kids C. Fever and temperature taking – Caring for Kids [Internet]. Caringforkids.cps.ca. 2018 [cited 28 September 2018]. Available from: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/fever_and_temperature_taking