Recommendations and ideas for dealing with fever:
Dear parents, every healthy child gets a feverish illness from time to time. Nevertheless, many parents feel insecure with a febrile child or are frightened. But what exactly is meant by fever, what can you do and what is important?
If you are anxious, your child cannot relax and tolerate the fever. Then make sure the child does not have any symptom that requires immediate medical advice (see Q&A: When do I need to see a doctor?”).
See febrile illnesses as opportunities to nurture relationships. Candlelight, songs, stories can be helpful, or just your calm presence. Electronic media are not a substitute and should be kept at a minimum, if at all (see Q&A: “What about Media?”).
Science has proven it: positive people live longer and healthier. Be a good example for your child and be positive and peaceful in the face of any challenge and set-back. Always ask yourself “what could this be good for?” – what may initially seem like a problem turns often out to be the start ofsomething good.
Welcome the fever.
Fever is a friend and can to fight infections and develop the immune system (see scientific facts below).
First give warmth!
Make sure the child is warm when the temperature is rising. The child will thus need less energy to develop fever, have less chills, less discomfort and this may even prevent febrile seizures in some children (see also Q&A: What about febrile seizures?”)
Some children feel very uncomfortable at the beginning.
Offer fluids, preferably warm, comfort, tell very brief self-made stories or rhymes, sing or hum. The discomfort usually does not last long. If you are unable to comfort your child, or if your child seems very unwell, then you need to seek medical advice. In adults, fever often leads to headaches that can be relieved with painkillers, in children this is seldom necessary (see Q&A: When do I need to see a doctor?”).
Allow the fever to do its work.
The temperature itself is not the danger, the potential danger is the underlying disease to which the child reacts with fever. Once you and/or your doctor have made sure that the child does not have anything dangerous, you can concentrate on making the experience as enjoyable as possible for everyone. This does not have to involve giving fever suppressing medicines: in otherwise healthy child, there is no temperature above which fever-lowering medicines must be given. In a quiet and secure setting, most children can have high temperatures without suffering. If the child is suffering you can try to apply natural methods (5) such as thin slices of lemon on the soles of the feet, or thin warm damp cloths on the lower legs (many parents apply cold damp cloths, but cold leads to discomfort and counter-reactions, whereas warmth damp thin cloths are not a shock to the child and nevertheless quickly take away heat by evaporating) (regarding enemas, see Q&A).
Then allow gentle cooling.
Once the child is feels warm all the way to its feet and, after a few hours of fever, starts sweating, you can gently take away some layers of sheets and clothing in order for the child to feel comfortable – but still leaving enough sheets and clothing for the child to feel warm all the way into the hands and feet! In some countries, the patients are kept very warm to sweat at this stage. The author is not sure yet as to when this is beneficial and when it is just strenuous (see also Q&A).
Drinking and eating.
In the initial phase, the phase of fever increase, the body has just one goal: get the temperature up there! So don’t expect your child to want to drink, let alone eat. Just give warmth. Once the fever plateau is reached, you can offer the child small sips – of a preferably warm fluid (e.g. mild thyme, elderflower or chamomile tea (6,7)). Later, when the fever is abating the child will be more ready to drink, and even eat light foods like thin soups.
Show your doctor you are educated about the positive effects of fever:
many doctors prescribe antipyretics (paracetamol and ibuprofen) even though they know that fever itself is not dangerous because they think the parents are afraid of fever (8). Tell your doctor you know fever is a helpful reaction of the body.
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