What Is a Fever and How Much Should It Matter?

Fever can be extremely troubling to parents, particularly if the fever is very high. Some fevers may occur along with other symptoms, such as with symptoms of the common cold, while others seem to occur by themselves. Parents need to understand what a fever is, what they should do about it and when to call the child’s pediatrician.

A fever is never the actual problem; instead, there is always an underlying problem that parents should recognize. A fever is considered to be a symptom of some other sickness, such as influenza, measles or the common cold. Therefore, a physician will focus more on the other symptoms the child is experiencing rather than on the number on the thermometer for making a diagnosis. While some high temperatures can be concerning, even low temperatures can be dangerous when accompanied by certain symptoms, such as rash or pain.

What to do During a Fever?

Parents can find ways to help their children be more comfortable in cases when the fever is creating a tired, miserable child. In situations when the pediatrician recommends treating the fever and other symptoms at home, parents will need to determine if the child needs any kind of medication to bring the fever down. Many doctors recommend abstaining from medication if the child is not uncomfortable. For mild discomfort, a lukewarm sponge bath may be appropriate. In situations where the child is very uncomfortable, an OTC fever reducer, such as acetaminophen, may be appropriate.

Of course, some fevers always warrant an immediate call to the pediatrician. Infants under the age of 3 months should always be referred to their pediatricians for fevers over 100.4. Additionally, a pediatrician should be contacted for fevers accompanied by severe pain, stiff neck, extreme sleeplessness, dehydration or dark red rashes. Children who are unable to shake their fevers after four days may need expert medical care to ensure that there is not a bigger underlying problem. Finally, children who experience seizures or difficulty breathing with their fevers should be brought to the nearest emergency room.

Dr. Matney takes the concerns of his patients and their parents seriously. Parents who are concerned about any of the symptoms their children are displaying should feel no qualms about calling his office for advice. In addition, Dr. Matney can often see children for same-day or next-day appointments for cases that require increased care.
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