What is all the worry about fever? Should we be worried? Don't fevers cause seizures and brain damage?
As we head into cold and flu season in the fall of 2017, let's take a look at where fever comes from and what it does. We will discuss how to manage a fever.
Fever is the body's evolutionary defense mechanism against infection. Infection triggers can be viruses or bacteria with viruses being 10x more likely to cause illness. The infection exposure stimulates white blood cells to produce fever-inducing hormones such as cytokines. These hormones circulate and reach the temperature regulation center in the brain located in the hypothalamus. The center elevates the body's set-point and new, higher "normal" body temperature occurs.
What does fever do that is useful? Bacteria and viruses like cooler temperatures so when the body temperature is elevated, these infections cannot last for too long. As the bacteria or virus dies off, the cells stop producing the fever inducing chemicals and the hypothalamus reduces the set-point back to a normal 98.6 degrees.
Our normal body temperature varies throughout the day from 97 to 99 degrees. A fever is classified as a temperature above 100.4 degrees. Adults do not typically get fevers higher than 101 degrees. Infants and children with an immature temperature regulation center in the brain can get higher fevers up to 104 degrees.
Fevers DO NOT cause seizures. Seizures related to fever are due to the extremely rapid rise in body temperature and not the temperature itself. Some children are more prone to a rapid rise in temperature in response to common illnesses.
Fevers DO NOT cause brain damage unless the temperature is greater than 107 degrees. This high of a temperature usually occurs due to injury of some kind. Fevers from infections rarely exceed 106 degrees which is still a high number and feels scary!
Fevers feel scary mostly because of the myths of seizures and brain damage. Also, when children have high fevers, they don't feel well and no parent wants that!
If your child is under 3m of age and has a fever >100.3 or more, please call your doctor as infections in young babies can be quite serious.
If your child is 4m -12m of age and has had a fever > 100.3 or more for 1-2 days, call your doctor.
If your child is older than 12m of age, they can tolerate a fever for 3-4 days without concern.
Keep your child well hydrated. Keep them in clothing that prevents heat loss and shivering - a common response to fever. Hats and socks are very useful. Use a fever reducer if irritable, not drinking well or unable to sleep.
"My child feels warm. She has a fever!"
Maybe but children can feel warm for a number of reasons. Take your child's temperature if they feel warm. The number of the temperature is ultimately not that important. There is no need to measure the temperature every 2-3 hours in the course of an illness. Use your child's behavior as a guide. Taking the temperature 1-2x daily will allow you to gauge the persistence and severity of the illness.
Be concerned about fever in any child if:
- Not drinking well and/or no urine output in 6-8 hours
- Not responding appropriately
- Very irritable or inconsolable espcially if a fever reducer has been given
- Other symptoms associated with the illness are worsening or changing
If the fever is persistent, sometimes the immune system cannot overcome the illness without assistance and medications are necessary. In the end, it is importatnt to remember that FEVER IS OUR FRIEND!
Interested in natural remedies for fever and other common illnesses? Download our fabulous e-book, The Wholistic Medicine Cabinet. Go to www.wholekidspediatrics.com/blog and you will see the option to get this resource. If you don't see it, clear your computer cache, try again and voila, you will see it!