IS FEVER DANGEROUS & WHEN SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED?

Fever is the rise in body temperature above 37.5 degree Celsius (oral) or more than 38 degrees Celsius (rectal) and can be caused by infections or any inflammatory process. Fever is the body's natural defence mechanism to fight against either viruses or bacteria. By having a temperature the body tries to create heat so that the virus or the bacteria cannot survive.

What is the danger of fever?

However this surge in temperature especially when very high can cause fits in children between the ages six months to six years. Fever also causes a lot of discomfort especially to the very young ones and can cause disruptions to feeding which in turn leads to dehydration and can also cause sleep and behavioural disturbances.

What causes fever?

Most fevers are caused by viral infections and these are self limiting. However there are other causes of fever especially if prolonged or associated with other symptoms which may require the attention of a doctor who will then proceed to investigate the cause of the fever and treat accordingly.

What can you do to alleviate fever?

  • Ensure that your child is well hydrated and this can be achieved by giving him milk or any nourishing fluids such as soups, broth, fruit juices or oral rehydration salts. A good indicator that he is well hydrated is when he passes light coloured urine every four to six hours.
  • Administer the correct medications at the right dosage and timing. You can either use paracetamol or ibuprofen and these can be given every six to eight hourly.
  • Your child’s temperature can be brought down by giving him a quick lukewarm shower or sponging and by allowing the water to evaporate from his body this will cool him down.
  • Do not overdress or swaddle your child with too many clothings as this will increase the body temperature. A single layer of clothing and a light blanket is all that is necessary.

When should you be concerned?

You should be seeing a doctor preferably a paediatrician or seek treatment at the emergency unit if your child

  • is less than six months
  • has fits or change in conscious level
  • is not feeding or vomiting and is at risk of dehydration
  • has a rash
  • has difficulty in breathing
  • has an underlying chronic medical problem
  • has a very high fever despite medications or sponging

Do all children with fever have to be admitted to the hospital?

This is not necessarily so. The indications for hospital admission are:

  • if the doctors suspect meningitis or any other serious infections such as Dengue fever.
  • if your child is dehydrated and requires intravenous drips especially if he cannot tolerate anything orally.
  • if your child is very young especially less than two months old and parents aren’t sure how to monitor for worsening symptoms at home.
  • if your child has fitted or has had a prolonged fit (>15mins) and is taking some time to recover.
  • if your child has an infection that requires intravenous antibiotics.