Posted: Mar 27, 2012 6:43 AM
Fever often sparks fear in us as parents. It means our child is sick and we need to make him or her feel better. However, when it comes to fever, it's best to look at your child, not the number on the thermometer. Read on to find out why fever is usually a good thing and how to resist the temptation to reach into the medicine cabinet.

Does the first sign of fever in your child leave you heading straight for the medicine cabinet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Fever in children inevitably incites worry and fear in parents. To us, that fever means our child is sick and we need to do something about it.

However, it’s best to bear in mind that fever is actually your child’s friend. Yes, you heard right. Fever really does do a body good. Whenever your child is fighting off an infection, whether it is viral or bacterial in origin, that fever is mobilizing the troops (your child’s immune system) and helping to fight that infection off.

In fact, taking a step back and letting that fever run its course may actually help your child recover sooner from his or her illness than if you rush to treat him or her with a fever reducer.

It’s much more important to look at your child than the number on the thermometer.

It’s much more important to look at your child than the number on the thermometer. If your child is running a 101 degrees F fever, but is eating, drinking and otherwise tolerating this temperature, wait. Keep your child well-hydrated with frequent doses of clear liquids, keep the home at a cool temperature and dress him or her in light cotton clothing.

In other words, treat your child -- not the fever.

Antipyretics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen should be used judiciously and only when absolutely necessary. So, if your child’s fever starts climbing above 102 degrees F and is showing signs of irritability, fatigue and refusal to eat and/or drink, then by all means, give him or her the proper dose of a fever reducer. The goal should be to make your child feel better, not normalize your child’s temperature.

The height of your child’s temperature does not correlate with severity of illness -- and that fever is bound to return once antipyretics have worn off. This is not a bad sign. This is simply a sign that your child’s body is doing exactly what it should be doing… fighting off that infection.

So, when should you worry about your child’s fever? If your child appears very ill, is less than four months old, has difficulty breathing, has a new rash, appears dehydrated or has a fever for more than three days, then he or she should be evaluated by the doctor.

tip^Dr. Mom’s bottom line: When your child spikes a fever, take the wait and see approach. Treat your child, not the number on the thermometer -- and remember that in most cases, fever really does do a body good.

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