Jul 4, 2019

5 min read

How to treat a fever in children - a simple guide

Fevers are an inevitable part of every child’s life. Children have vulnerable immune systems and are susceptible to a wide range of infections. As a parent, one can do everything possible to ensure healthy surroundings and habits, but minor illness is absolutely unavoidable. Conversely, while it’s all well and good to be matter-of-fact and pragmatic about how fevers are harmless and might even be a necessary physiological response, no parent can quite feel at ease watching their little one go through sickness, small or big.

"The sheer importance of showering your child with parental affection and keeping their morale up through this difficult period, can’t be overstated."

One of the biggest paradoxes of healthcare is that managing the seemingly trivial and ubiquitous, is often more challenging than handling more severe conditions, which have thoroughly established modalities and treatment strategies. Likewise, as a parent, strangely enough, knowing how to care for your child through a minor illness such as a fever, not warranting any professional healthcare, might actually not be that intuitive or easy.

Although a simple fever, by no means, represents any real threat to your child’s well being, it is definitely an emotionally and physically draining experience. When your child has a fever, the most important thing to keep in mind as a parent is that it is emotionally and physically stressful time for your little one and that the best you can do to help is actually to make sure they feel comforted, secure and loved. Although it’s obvious that responsive care involves prompt attention being paid to several tiny details, the sheer importance of showering your child with parental affection and keeping their morale up through this difficult period, can’t be overstated.

Here is a comprehensive guide to help you make sure that you are informed and equipped in addressing your child’s needs during a fever and helping them back to the pink of health, in no time!

1. Fluids

Children experience rapid dehydration during fevers. Their bodies lose fluids at a brisk rate and this leaves them cranky and exhausted. Encourage your child to drink as much fluid as they can and make “fun” drink options available to them. In case of diarrhoea or vomiting, your child might need an oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replenish lost electrolytes and restore a normal ion balance.

It is completely normal to encounter resistance from your child. Patience and understanding are key here. It is your role, as a parent, to perform the balancing act of being accommodating to your child’s moods while making sure their bodies are getting all the help they can to beat the illness.

2. Food

Fevers are a time of significant metabolic stress. Your child’s body is in “repair mode” and physiological resources are directed towards recuperation. During a fever, your child might not be too enthused at the idea of eating. Many parents are alarmed at this and with the best of intentions, end up trying to force feed their child. It is important to respect your child’s instincts with regard to food, during sickness. You’d be well advised to avoid complex, hard-to-digest foods rich in protein and fat, and stick to simpler foods such as rice, bread, porridge etc.

"Fevers are an emotionally and physically draining experience for children."

3. Rest

Make sure your child gets plenty of rest to restore their energy levels back to normal. Some children are not as sensitive to their own body’s needs during a fever and display signs of restlessness or hyperactivity. Again, as mentioned before, it is vital to perform a balancing act as a parent, to ensure that your child doesn’t exhaust themselves, thereby prolonging the period of convalescence.

4. Comfort

During a fever, It is essential to provide your child with a forgiving and caring environment. Make sure that they are dressed in light, breathable clothes or better yet, do not cover them at all. Ensure that the room temperature isn’t too hot or cold and that they have constant company of either parent, to keep spirits up and not let them feel alone.

5. Treatment

Most fevers do not require any specialised medical care. You only need to contact your doctor if your child’s temperature exceeds 38 °C (100.4 °F) or if your child experiences other symptoms such as a rash, difficulty breathing or GI symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea).

If you have no reason to suspect anything serious, it is advisable to medicate at home using paracetamol or ibuprofen. Doses should be measured carefully and mixing these medications or using them in tandem should be avoided at all costs.

6. Temperature check

In a hospital setting, it is common to have up to 4 temperature readings taken every day. This is because skin temperature is not the same as core body temperature, which itself fluctuates throughout the day, reflecting your child’s metabolic upticks and downticks. If you are using a thermometer, 3-4 readings throughout the day are recommended, as there is quite some diurnal variation (temperature is usually lowest in the morning and highest before sleep)

At ONiO, we believe that although intermittent temperature checks can be informative, they can ultimately be misleading and not very reliable. Here’s where we think a steady stream of data, showing detailed trends of your child’s troughs and peaks in temperature, could be absolutely invaluable.

Your child needs your support, time and affection much more than usual during periods of sickness. It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of just being there for your child during such a time. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child feels cherished and taken care of during the moments of confusion and tiredness that they are bound to experience during a fever.

About the author

Abishek Swaminathen

Senior Content Manager

Abishek is ONiO’s senior content manager. A medical doctor by profession, he stumbled onto a writing career almost by accident, as it were. Words have enthralled Abishek since the day he first held a book and at ONiO, he channels his inner wordsmith towards providing our subscribers with regular doses of fun and informative content.

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