Guest Author - Rebecca Spooner
Fevers can be scary, especially in young children. The web is full of information on when to go in, ways to treat fevers, how to take temperatures, etc. However, there is such a thing as too much information. Recently, my kids were sick with high fevers for a number of days on end, and I had to look through pages of sites before I could find any helpful information. So, check out these quick facts of how to take your child's temperature, when to call the doctor, when to go to emergency, and when it is safe to treat the fever with home remedies.
How to Take an Accurate Temperature Reading
There are a number of different ways and methods to taking your child's temperature. The most accurate reading is rectal, however this can be a nuisance and worrisome for some parents, thus the most common is the axillary method (armpit). If you choose to do rectal, the best method is to designate a thermometer strictly to rectal temperature readings, dip the tip in a bit of vaseline, make sure the child/baby is still and only insert the tip a little ways. You do NOT need to go deep to get a good read, just an inch is more than enough. Axillary is much easier in young children, however it is important to make sure that the thermometer is pressed high up in their armpit and their arm is pressed firmly to their sides for an accurate read. If they feel hot and the thermometer says they are fine, try it again and make sure that the thermometer isn't sitting too low or in a pocket and not touching their skin on all sides. Oral is nearly impossible in young children, as it is best for the thermometer to sit under the tongue. This method is best reserved for children aged 5-6 and over. Lastly we have the tympanic method (ear) and temporal artery method (forhead). Although these methods are available over the counter and oftentimes easier to perform on children, the most accurate and preferred methods are oral or axillary (the arm pit). In children aged 2 and under, rectal is the first choice to ensure an accurate read.
Temperatures: How hot is too hot?
If your child has a fever, take a look at this chart to figure out whether you should call your doctor, treat it at home, or take them in to emergency.
A fever is generally classified as above about 99 degrees F. The normal range varies depending on the method you use, however it is important to watch your child's behaviour as that is a huge indicator of when to take them in.
Call your doctor if:
1. Your child is under 3 months of age and has a temperature of 100.4 or higher
2. Your child has had a fever of 100.4 for three days
3. If your child has a high fever, 103 or higher and is fussy, refusing fluids, etc.
4. If your child has a fever accompanying a skin rash
Go to emergency if:
Go to emergency immediately if your child has a very high fever (104 or higher) if at any time they are lethargic, showing signs of dehydration (not drinking, not peeing, no tears, etc.), and/or if they are having febrile seizures (brought on through a high fever).
How to Treat a Fever at Home
In most cases, a fever is very treatable from home. Acetaminophen helps reduce fever as well as aches and pains often associated with it. Ibuprofen is similar, however it reduces inflammation and lasts about 8 hours as opposed to 4. If your child has a higher fever and acetaminophen won't work, you can use ibuprofen. These two medications have no contraindications with each other, meaning that you can take both at the same time with no detrimental side effects.
A lukewarm bath can help bring the temperature down. No matter what, don't strip your kids naked and put on cold cloths. This can make them cold, causing them to shiver, and raising their temperature even more. That method should only be used in extreme cases. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, gets lots of rest, and keep on checking their temperature to monitor their illness.
A fever can be scary, but most often it is treatable at home. It means that your child is fighting off an infection and the best thing you can do is help them to do that. Through my experiences, a doctor rarely does anything for a fever, but it is important to check and make sure that your child doesn't have an ear infection, some other bacterial infection, etc. So make sure to take them in if you are at all concerned.