Knowing Children’s Health About Fever

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Everybody knows what a fever is, but many people don’t know what it means. One common error is to assume that the higher the fever, the sicker the child. It is also commonly believed that fever is a child’s enemy, that it should be fought and the temperature brought to normal as soon as possible.

The fact is that children past early infancy tend to develop high fevers with little provocation. Relatively harmless illnesses like rosella often cause temperatures as high as 41.1 °C, whereas many serious diseases, such as leukemia and polio, may cause slight or no rise in temperature. Furthermore, it is not true that high fever causes “brain damage.”

A child is as seriously sick as the illness warrants, not as a thermometer registers. A child with pneumonia or meningitis and a fever of 40°Ñ is still ill even though the temperature has been artificially reduced to normal.

A child with a strep throat and 38.3°C fever is no less sick than the same child with a strep throat and a temperature of 40°C. Other symptoms (such as exhaustion, confusion, difficulty in breathing) indicate the illness’s severity, not the degree of fever.

It makes more sense, in fact, to regard a fever as a child’s friend rather than as an enemy. A fever is an early warning signal that a child is ill and that you must look to find a cause. Fever also speeds up the body’s metabolic processes (possibly including its resistance mechanisms) and in some instances may help the body’s defenses to overcome an illness.

Fever, together with other symptoms, also acts as a barometer to help you judge when an illness is ending. For example, the course of a fever may indicate whether or not an antibiotic is working effectively. Finally, the pattern of daily fluctuations in fever may be characteristic of particular illnesses and may aid the parent or physician in making a correct diagnosis.

A high fever does have disadvantages, however. It makes a child feel uncomfortable and, as it develops, may cause chills. If fever continues for days, it may weaken a child so that it takes longer for the child to recuperate.

In susceptible younger children, a fever may lead to convulsions. For all these reasons, it is sensible to reduce fever. However, it is important not to confuse treating the fever with treating the illness, not to panic as a fever rises, and not to harm the child in your anxiety to fight the fever.

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