Sniffle Solutions

I’ve heard fevers are beneficial for the healing process. Does this mean I shouldn’t use a fever-reducer?

I’ve heard fevers are beneficial for the healing process. Does this mean I shouldn’t use...

An elevated temperature understandably makes parents nervous. But just because a child is running a fever doesn’t mean he needs medication to lower it. In fact, according to a recent report by the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics, if a child has an above-normal temperature but is otherwise acting normal, taking a fever-reducer is unnecessary and might even impede the healing process. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, a fever is not a direct result of a virus or bacteria. It’s your body’s reaction to those baddies -- its mechanism to fight off infection.

So when is medication necessary to lower a fever? My rule: Don’t treat the number on the thermometer; treat your kid’s behavior. According to the AAP, the goal of a fever-reducer is to make your child more comfortable, not physically reduce his temperature. So if your child has a fever of 101 F, seems to be losing energy and isn’t eating or playing well, a fever-reducer will help him feel much better. And that’s the point!

Make sure to check in with your doctor if you’re very concerned with how your child is looking or acting, or if her fever continues for three or more days. I also tell my patients that if a child’s temperature reaches 104 F -- and especially if it persists -- it’s best to visit the pediatrician to rule out a bacterial or other infection that requires treatment.

In addition, if your child is younger than 3 months old, always immediately see a doctor for any fever. And never give her a fever-reducer, which masks her temperature and makes it more difficult for your pediatrician to further investigate the cause of her symptoms.

When you do give your child a fever-reducer, both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have been proven to be very safe (though I do recommend acetaminophen, not ibuprofen, for babies younger than 6 months of age). The biggest concern is parents giving kids too much medication, so be very careful about doses -- they can be confusing! A few other tips:

  • Remember that medicines are always dosed by weight, not age. Carefully follow the package instructions.
  • Always use the measuring cup that comes with the medicine, never a spoon from your kitchen drawer. This ensures your kid gets exactly the right amount.
  • Call the doctor’s office if you’re ever in doubt. I also recommend asking for the appropriate doses at your child’s yearly wellness visit; the amounts your pediatrician provides should be good until the next checkup.

* As told to Colleen Canney, group editor of Sniffle Solutions

Has your child had a fever this year? Did you use a fever-reducer? Join the conversation!




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