For new parents, dealing with your baby’s first fever can be daunting – and let’s admit it, even us seasoned parents still encounter the occasional ‘do I take them to the doctor now?’ moment with our kids. To help keep us parents from going into panic mode, we asked Dr Valerie Druon of International Medical Clinic for some sound advice on what to do when your child has a high temperature – and when to seek medical help…
How do I know it’s really a fever?
A fever is defined as a core temperature consistently over 37.2°C. Body temperature needs to be measured accurately with reliable equipment like a paediatric ear thermometer. The nose of the thermometer needs to be placed securely into the child’s ear for a few seconds before reading. Low-grade fevers range between 37.3°C to 37.9°C. High temperatures are usually over 38.5°C. Fevers can fluctuate and become severe rapidly, so it is important to monitor the temperature often when your child is unwell.
What should I do first?
Managing your child’s fever depends on their age and medical background, including previous vaccinations, previous illnesses or drug allergies.
Previously healthy and vaccinated children over one year of age with a new onset of a low-grade fever can be given Paracetamol (weight adjusted). Young children need close monitoring of their oral intake, urine output or wet nappies, energy level, signs of irritability, pain, interest in play, level of alertness, duration of illness and response to Paracetamol.
Cooling measures like cool baths or sponging, cool drinks, ice blocks, undressing the child, can be used in addition to paracetamol. Encouraging hydration, nutritious intake and rest all aid recovery.
Any worrying signs need prompt medical assessment.
What should I be taking seriously?
Because of Dengue fever and similar viruses in Asia, we suggest Ibuprofen be avoided until medical advice is obtained (to avoid bleeding from Ibuprofen in case of Dengue). Aspirin is contraindicated in children. Any fever over 38.5°C is considered as ‘high’ and requires medical assessment.
All children with a chronic illness, co-morbidities, on regular medications will need early assessment of their fever even if low-grade. For instance, an asthmatic child who develops a cold is more susceptible to have a chest infection than one without asthma.
Infants younger than seven months with a fever need to be promptly assessed by a paediatrician, and considered as a paediatric emergency. This is because babies have a developing immune system and are not equipped to fight germs that they may have been partially or unvaccinated against.
If you have any concerns at all, always seek medical advice.
Dr Valerie Druon is a French-speaking Australian who most recently practiced in Canberra, Australia at a private family practice that also serviced the needs of the diplomatic and expatriate community. Dr Druon has practiced family medicine in rural and regional centres as well as emergency and intensive care medicine. Her interests include children’s health, asthma and allergies and travel medicine. She is based at IMC Camden Medical Centre.
This post is sponsored by International Medical Clinic.