Fever is often a part of life as a parent, particularly with young children in the winter time (read: 6-10 colds a year is the norm). Although I sincerely don’t like it and do feel naturally uneasy when my boys have a fever, as a pediatrician I know to take fever as one of many symptoms they develop when responding to infection. I certainly use medications like Tylenol when my boys are feverish, refusing to eat, punked out, and exhausted. Thing is, it works! And often they respond beautifully, bouncing back, regaining energy and improving their fluid intake and appetite. But I don’t treat every fever they have and I don’t recommend you run for the medicine cabinet when you feel that warm forehead. It’s not necessary to treat every fever. And it’s certainly not ideal to treat the numbers, themselves. Fever is a natural response of the immune system. Fever ultimately can be productive and may assist your child’s body in fighting off infection.
Fever phobia is pervasive though; we pediatricians are partly to blame. This week the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report on fever (and fever phobia) and the use of fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Listen to my take in the video. The main take home is not to treat fever per se, but your child. There is no reason to make a fever disappear if your child is otherwise acting well, playful, and staying hydrated. But do know there are some fevers that do require a visit with the pediatricians. It’s important to seek care when fever persists after 3 days in infants and children, any fever in a baby 3 month old or less, and if fever is over 104 degrees. Furthermore, trust your instincts! If your child looks unwell in the face of fever and doesn’t seem to be improving as you would expect, call you pediatrician for help!
What do you think; does fever freak you out? Do you feel like you need to treat fever immediately? Does this information help you feel more at ease with temperature elevation and fever in infants and children?
(Errata: The paper detailed above from the AAP this week isn’t a “Policy Statement” as I mistakenly said in the video. It’s a “Clinical Report.”…and well, that’s a different thing. I apologize if I caused any confusion.)