Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Dealing with a fever

Published:Saturday | August 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Probably all of us have had fever at some point or another. It is especially common in children and is one of the most common reasons a parent/guardian takes a child for a doctor's visit.

Unfortunately, their response to their child's fever is often inappropriate - either overreacting or inadequately reacting.

What approach should be taken?

A person is having a fever if the temperature taken in the armpit is 99F and the source of the increased temperature is inside the body (as opposed to externally, such as being in a very hot environment). It is usually a result of activation of the immune system.

This may be the result of:

1) Infections - some serious, like pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, and appendicitis; and some not, like the common cold, influenza, ear infection and chicken pox.

2) Teething (usually low-grade).

3) Cancers, like kidney cancer, leukaemia, and lymphoma.

4) Inflammatory conditions like lupus, rheumatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.

5) Immunisations.

6) Deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

7) Medications such as some antibiotics, antihistamines, and seizure medications.

8) Gout.

9) Tissue destruction such as heart attack, surgery, and significant crush injuries.

A fever can be dangerous if it surpasses 107.6F as it can cause brain damage, but this is very rare. Additionally, some children get seizures when they have significant fevers, though by themselves, they cause no long-term problems. Fever should be treated if it gets to 101F or more.

However, it seems to stimulate the immune system, so if it is less than 101F, then it may not need treatment.

Fever can be treated with lukewarm (not cold) water applied to the body, which can reduce the temperature very quickly. Medications like paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., diclofenac and ibuprofen), and metamizol work more slowly but are longer lasting.

If someone's fever gets to 101F or more, then that person should probably be seen by a doctor, as there may be a serious infection, especially if

1) The child is less than three months old.

2) It lasts more than two days.

3) Their immune system is weakened by a previous condition (like HIV) or treatment.

4) There has been recent overseas travel.

5) There are additional symptoms like abdominal pain, sore throat, cough, or earache.

6) There is excessive drowsiness or confusion.

7) There is an inability to walk or difficulty breathing.

8) There is inconsolable crying, severe headache, stiff neck, or seizures.

9) There are associated bruises or a skin rash.

10) There is urinary problem.