'Tis the Season - for fevers
Dr Neil Gardner, Gleaner Writer
If you are uncertain of the source, you will probably boil water before you drink it. You do this because raising the temperature kills the germs. What if the body had a similar mechanism if we were infected with a germ? We do have one, it is called a fever. A fever is an increase of body temperature in response to pathogen invasion. This increase in temperature kills many bacteria and viruses that cannot live in temperature over 37C (98.6F), as the immune cells divide and work faster to kill the pathogens. I am sorry to be a 'Grinch', but while you spread the Christmas joy during this season, you may be passing on infections due to proximity in indoor gatherings.
Many parents incorrectly believe that fever is a disease rather than a medical sign and that any temperature even briefly or slightly above the 'normal' is harmful. This phenomenon, described as fever phobia, drives many parents to unnecessarily medicate their child.
This excessive fear of fever is unfounded. It is not the fever that is harmful, but the underlying disease. Fevers are not normally life threatening, but a manifestation of a properly functioning immune system. They represent the body's solution, not its problem.
What about brain damage and seizures?
Damage to the brain generally does not occur until temperatures reach 42C (107.6F), and it is rare for an untreated fever to even exceed 41C (105F) unless the child is overdressed or trapped in a hot place. If it does, then the fever probably was not being caused by a simple infection and emergency medical attention must be sought.
Febrile seizures do occur in some children. However, most febrile seizures are over quickly, do not mean your child has epilepsy, and do not cause any permanent harm.
Antipyretics are medications that have a property that reduces the fever response of the body. Antipyretics do not prevent febrile seizures and may actually prolong the infection.
Fevers must be monitored closely. A good recommendation is using the armpit method for taking a child's temperature under the age of four years. After ensuring that your child's armpit is dry, simply place the digital thermometer in your child's armpit, keeping the arm snugly against the body. When the digital thermometer beeps, read the temperature. Older children and adults may use an oral thermometer under the tongue, but care must be taken not to bite the tip. Do not use a glass thermometer, which is a biohazard if it breaks.
Consult before you medicate
Consult your medical doctor prior to administering any medication. If medicating your child's fever, avoid all aspirin medications. Aspirin has been associated with the development of Reye's syndrome in children, a potentially fatal illness.
When to call your Doctor
As a parent, you know your child best. If you have any concerns, it is always best to consult your healthcare professional. Consult your medical doctor immediately in any of the following cases:
- If your child's fever is 104F or over orally; or 103F in the armpit.
- If a child under the age of three months develops a fever.
- If your child is convulsing or hallucinating.
- If your child's fever has not changed in over three days
- If your child is complaining of a stiff neck
- If your child has repeated vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
The following steps can be helpful with a fever:
Hydrate your child with water and fresh, natural fruit juice. Avoid sugary drinks as sugar is known to suppress immune system function.
Dress your child in loose, light clothing.
Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep and rest.
If your child is prone to getting sick or repeatedly has fevers, then their immune function may be compromised. Chiropractic care may help stimulate their immune system, resulting in fewer sick days and shorter, less severe episodes. If you have any questions, please call your family chiropractor.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB; Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board; Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd.Website: www.gcnjamaica.com; Phone: 876-978-1050-1 or, 876-622-9241, or 214-432-5464 (From the USA).