Fever reminds the most common concern for you as parents to bring your child to the emergency department. It has traditionally been defined as a rectal temperature over 100.4 F or 38.0 C.
Fever is part of the body’s defense mechanism against viruses or bacteria. The body creates extra heat, so that the foreign organism cannot survive. Having a temperature sometimes helps to fight illness. Fever is a good thing, most of the time.
Fever itself is not life-threatening unless it is extremely and persistently high, such as greater than 107 F (41.6 C) when measured rectally. Fever may indicate the presence of a serious illness, but usually a fever is caused by common infections which are not serious. The part of the brain called the hypothalamus controls body temperature. The hypothalamus increases the body’s temperature as a way to fight the infection. However, many conditions other than infections may cause a fever.
The normal temperature for a child is 36 to 36.8 C (97.7 to 99.1 F). Some children will have a seizure (fit), if their temperature shoots up. But this is uncommon and is not a reason to try to reduce the temperature of a child with a fever.
The part of the human brain that controls body temperature is not fully developed in children. This means that a child’s temperature may rise and fall very quickly, and the child is more sensitive to the temperature of his or her surroundings.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to help a child with a fever feel more comfortable is to take off some of the child’s clothes, so heat can escape from their body more easily. But if they start to shiver because the environment is too cold, they’ll not lose heat. Do not put them in a cold shower because their skin will get cold, but their inside temperature will go up.
Fever does not require treating. Only if the child is miserable, should paracetamol or ibuprofen be considered to make the child feel better, by reducing their temperature.