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Email simone@scmc.com.au

 

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PO Box 465, Rosebud VIC 3939

Phone (03) 5985 7776 (Rye clinic)

Email jane@scmc.com.au

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Managing Childhood Fever – How to Keep Your Cool

Posted By South Coast Medical Group  
15/05/2019
16:00 PM

How to Keep Your Cool When Managing Childhood Fever 

 

As a parent, you know that your kids will catch bugs at some point. Viral and bacterial infections are the unavoidable consequence of children of all ages exploring their world and sharing their spaces.

Infection mostly means fever and fever can spell panic especially when your kids are tiny.

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious or even helpless when you’re caring for your feverish child.

In this article, we share some information around understanding childhood fever and tips for management.

 

Fever facts

  • Fever is a sign that your child’s immune system is fighting fit. Their body is busy knocking out an infection. This is a healthy biological response and a generally good thing.
  • Fever is not an actual sickness. It’s an unavoidable symptom of many common childhood illnesses.
  • Fever usually lasts 72 hours (3 days) at most.

 

Recognising fever

Although it varies slightly over the course of a day, our normal body temperature is around 37°C. If a thermometer measures your child’s temperature at over 38°C they likely have a fever.


A feverish child may show some or all of the following signs:

  • feeling hot to touch, and being flushed or sweaty
  • being unusually fussy and irritable or unusually sleepy
  • refusing to drink  
  • vomiting or shivering
  • crying and complaining of pain. 

We recommend contacting your doctor immediately if: 

  • Your baby is less than 3 months old and has a temperature over 38°C, even if they have no symptoms
  • Your child is between 3 months and 3 years old and has a temperature over 39°C
  • If you feel your child seems more unwell than you would expect with a minor cold

For older kids, keep an eye on their behaviour and energy levels. These are likely to indicate whether or not your doctor should see them.

Your child may not be seriously sick if they:  

  • are alert and smiley and interested in play  
  • eating and drinking well
  • look well when their temperature drops.

 

Taking temperatures - which method is best?  

Here’s a guide (sourced from Caring For Kids) that may help with choosing the most accurate method based on your child’s age.

Please note, this is a guide only and we recommend consulting with your healthcare professional.

Age Recommended Method
Newborns to 2 year olds Armpit
2 to 5 year olds  Ear or armpit
Older than 5

Mouth, ear or armpit

 

What to use to measure temperatures

Here are some suggestions on what you can use to measure a child’s temperature:

  • A plastic digital thermometer uses electronic heat sensors to record body temperature. It can take oral and armpit temperatures. Armpit readings are considered to be the least accurate.  
  • A tympanic (ear) thermometer.
  • An infrared forehead thermometer measures the temperature of the temporal artery in your child’s forehead and can be used when they are asleep.
  • A glass mercury thermometer is not recommended, as its contents are toxic if inhaled.
  • Plastic tape thermometers or fever strips are not recommended as because they do not always give accurate readings.

 

How to take temperatures   

Mouth

This is not recommended for kids under 5 years old. It is hard for them to keep the digital thermometer under their tongues for around a minute.

  • Clean the thermometer with cool, soapy water and rinse.
  • Carefully place the tip of the thermometer under your child’s tongue.
  • Make sure they close their mouth is closed.
  • Wait for the beep (around 1 minute).
  • Remove the thermometer and read the temperature.
  • Clean the thermometer.

NOTE: If your child has been eating or drinking, wait 15 minutes before taking their temperature.  

 

Armpit

This method is often used to check for fever in newborns and young children.

  • Use a digital thermometer.
  • Clean the thermometer with cool, soapy water and rinse.
  • Place the tip of the thermometer in the centre of your child’s armpit.
  • Hug your child to keep their arm is tucked snugly against the body.
  • Wait for the beep (around 1 minute).
  • Remove the thermometer and read the temperature.
  • Clean the thermometer.

 

Ear

This is a quick method. However, the readings can be low even when used correctly.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Use a clean probe tip each time.
  • Gently tug on the ear, to pull it back and straighten the ear canal. This makes a clear path inside the ear to the eardrum.
  • Gently insert the thermometer until the ear canal is fully sealed.
  • Squeeze and hold the button for one second.
  • Remove the thermometer and read the temperature

 

Helping your child cope with fever

You can do a number of things to lower your child’s fever. While none of these things will treat the underlying illness, they may make both of you more comfortable and less stressed.

 

Keep them hydrated:

  • give older kids small, frequent drinks.
  • increase breastfeeding or bottles of formula or cold boiled water for babies under 6 months.

 

Use appropriate pain relief:

You may choose to give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen provided your child is over 3 months old and not dehydrated. Follow the packaging instructions for age and weight. Ask your doctor’s advice if you’re still unsure about dosages or frequencies.

Unsure about the right pain relief for kids? Book an appointment

 

Keep them cool or warm:

Sponge the foreheads of hot, sweaty kids and dress them in light loose clothing. Dress shivery kids warmly or wrap them in an extra blanket.

If possible adjust the room temperature up or down.  

 

Watch for things getting better or worse:

All kids get fevers. Most often they're completely over them and back to normal after several days.

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

    • Your child is younger than 2 and still feverish after 24 hours.
    • Your child is over 2 and still has a fever after 48-72 hours.
    • Your child seems to be getting more unwell.
    • Your child’s pain is not settling even after pain relief medication.

We know how stressful and scary it can be when your kids are unwell.  If you’re worried about your child’s health, book an appointment now.