How to manage your child’s fever

Slight fevers can usually be treated at home but fevers sometimes have to be tended to by a doctor immediately.

What causes fever in kids?

  1. There is a bacterial or viral infection that causes their body temperature to rise; or
  2. Rare causes like autoimmune conditions and salicylate poisoning can also cause fevers.

What symptoms of fever should parents look out for in children?

Poor feeding, vomiting, reduced alertness and rashes.

How do you take a child’s temperature properly?

If available, put a cover on the thermometer probe, then place it under your child’s tongue until the thermometer beeps to get an accurate reading. Remind your child to keep their lips firmly closed and not to bite the thermometer. Getting your child to hum while you take their temperature orally helps them to pass the time and keep their mouth shut. Be mindful that cold or hot drinks and even chewing gum can change oral temperatures. Wait at least 15 minutes after eating or drinking before you take your child’s temperature.

A normal reading is between 36.5 and 37.5˚C. Anything beyond 38.5˚C would be classified as a high fever. Should the fever exceed 42˚C, it may cause brain damage if it is not resolved. If your baby is less than 3 months old, bring them to the doctor immediately, as they are 21 times more likely to suffer a serious infection, as compared to older children. Regardless of age, however, a persistent fever is a cause for concern – do get the fever checked by your child’s physician as soon as possible.

How can parents lower their child’s fever at home if the temperature is not very high?

Put light clothing on them. Thick clothing or blankets when they are shivering and feeling cold should only be used for a short while. They should drink plenty of fluids. Give sponge baths with room temperature tap water if the fever remains at 38.5 to 39˚C even if they are taking fever medications. Give them paracetamol as prescribed, every 4 to 6 hours. In addition, and as advised by your doctor, give ibuprofen (Brufen) or the suppository diclofenac (Voltaren) if their temperature remains high, at above 38.5 to 39˚C even after taking paracetamol. KoolFever may be applied but continue checking their temperature regularly as the cooling gel sheets may just be masking a high fever. Lastly, improve ventilation by opening windows and using the fan.

Over-the-counter syrup paracetamol can be given to children with fever. Doses suggested on the packaging are generally safe but do consult your doctor, if in doubt.

When should parents bring their feverish child in to see the doctor?

Consult the doctor if the fever and other symptoms do not improve after 2 to 3 days, or immediately if your child appears sicker, especially if they also:

  • feel drowsy,
  • feel confused,
  • complain of a severe headache,
  • complain of neck stiffness,
  • have rashes on their body,
  • vomit persistently,
  • show poor appetite,
  • show signs of severe dehydration,
  • are breathless, and
  • appear pale or have blue skin and lips.

An untreated fever can lead to fits or seizures. When this happens, place your child in a safe place and on their side to drain their mucus and vomitus. Do not put a wooden spoon/spatula or fingers between their teeth. If available and prescribed by your doctor, give a rectal stesolid (Diazepam) and send your child to the nearest hospital or clinic immediately. At the emergency room, nurses and doctors will assist with fever control, assessment, and blood and urine testing.

Depending on the outcome of the doctor’s assessment, your child could have a review in 2 to 3 days. If there is no improvement, your child may be warded for closer monitoring and in-patient treatment.

It is important not to take fever symptoms lightly, as there can be severe health complications on young children, toddlers and babies. Thomson 24-Hour Family Clinic sees many paediatric cases with a sudden onset of symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, stomach pain, breathing problems, and lumps and bumps. Our paediatrician is on-call 24/7 to provide consultation and treatment of such children’s conditions throughout the night, so that parents can be assured that their kids will receive medical help.