Fever is a normal reaction to a certain illness. It is characterized by an increase in body temperature. Fever can occur due to different reasons: viral infections, bacterial infections, heat stroke, tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, recent immunizations, and a side effect of some medications. The hypothalamus is responsible for maintaining the body’s temperature. When a person contracts an illness, the hypothalamus will elevate the temperature of the body to help fight off the microorganisms (inflammation) that are causing the illness. Fever is a sign of inflammation which is triggered by the immune system as a way to eliminate germs.
The average, normal temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). A person’s normal temperature may vary, but it is typically close to this value. In children, it is considered a fever if the temperature reaches 100°F (37.8°C) oral temperature.
Fever temperature is not constant; it can go up or down. You have probably observed that your child’s fever temperature tends to increase at night – it’s because night time is the period wherein the body undergoes repair and restoration. The immune system takes advantage of this and strengthens the process of inflammation (in the form of fever) to fight off the infection. Thus, sleep is an important requirement to keep our immune systems healthy.
In general, if the child (two years and older) has a fever of up to 102°F (38.9°C) but still seems comfortable, responsive, and still goes about his/her daily activities (e.g. playing, running, eating), medication and/or emergency care may not be necessary. In these cases, the child’s fever may not be serious and may go away soon.
However, if the fever is still present after 24 hours, it is recommended to visit the doctor. If infants and younger kids (less than two years old) become feverish, you should automatically seek emergency care as soon as possible.
The fever can also be considered as serious or severe if the child (regardless of age) is experiencing the following symptoms:
Some children may experience seizures due to the high temperature (above 100.4°F/38°C). These are called febrile seizures; this is different from epilepsy. It lasts for a few minutes and typically does not need treatment.
Children who are six months to five years old may experience febrile seizures. It also occurs more often in boys than in girls. These seizures typically disappear by the time the child is five years old.
It is known that kids are more susceptible to infections (leading to fever) than adults, thus getting them from time to time is quite normal. However, these aforementioned symptoms should not be ignored. You must seek immediate medical attention for your child in such cases; this is important because the underlying cause of the fever might be potentially dangerous (e.g. autoimmune disease, some cancers, brain disorders).
You can gauge your child’s body temperature by placing your hand on his/her forehead. This is referred to as tactile temperature. Although this is inaccurate and obviously won’t give you the exact temperature, it will at least give you a clue whether he/she may or may not have a fever.
The best method is to use a digital thermometer. It can be used in an oral, rectal, and axillary position (under the arm). If you prefer to take the oral temperature, temperatures of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher is considered as fever. For the rectal position, 100.4°F (38°C) and higher; and for the axillary position, 98.96°F (37.2°C) or higher are confirmed as fever.
Steps on how to get the axillary temperature:
Steps on how to get the rectal temperature of a baby:
As mentioned earlier, you do not need to treat a fever every time; sometimes it just goes away on its own. However, if your child is experiencing discomfort, you can help him/her get relief from the symptoms by doing these steps.
The children (and the whole family) can prevent fever by reducing exposure to infectious diseases such as the common cold. Teach your kids the following measures:
We should always remember that a fever is not an illness per se; it is a condition caused by an illness. It is not necessary to treat it, except for serious cases and the presence of severe signs/symptoms stated earlier.
Fever is a necessary reaction that demonstrates the activity of the immune system. If the fever turned out to be chronic in children, parents should immediately seek emergency care. You should also do the same if you are doubtful or confused about what to do and you want to be on the safe side. Practicing good hygiene is important to avoid contracting contagious illnesses, thereby avoiding fever as well.