Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Most people feel that 98.6° F is normal body temperature. The truth is that “normal” body temperature varies from person to person. Some people have a normal temperature that is a little higher than 98.6 and some have a lower temperature. Most people’s body temperature changes throughout the day. It is usually lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Most children’s temperature stays the same from day to day – until they get sick, either from a bacterial infection or a virus.
Fever is not dangerous. It will not cause damage to the brain unless it rises above 107° F and infections rarely cause fevers over 106.2° F. Temperatures over 107 are usually caused by heatstroke, head trauma, toxic ingestion, or side effects from anesthesia.
In general, our body temperature rises when our body is fighting infection. Fever is actually a good thing -- it shows that our immune system is working to fight whatever illness we have. Fever occurs when the hypothalamus, which is located in the brain and acts as the body’s “thermostat”, responds to substances that are released in the blood by invading bacteria, viruses or toxins. The hypothalamus raises the body’s temperature and signals white blood cells to attack the invaders.
Reducing fever may not make your child get better faster, but it will relieve some of the discomfort that the fever may be causing them. Also, if you reduce the fever, you may be able to tell if they are feeling miserable because of the fever or the infection.
If you choose to reduce your child’s fever, you may give them acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the package or talk to your pediatrician to determine the amount that your child should take. Do not use aspirin to reduce a fever. Aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, which is a disease that causes severe liver dysfunction and brain swelling.
Make sure that your child drinks a lot of fluids. Loss of fluid due to sweating increases and can cause dehydration, which can make your child’s temperature rise. Don’t force your child to eat because people that have fever do not usually have much of an appetite. Once the infection has passed, your child will regain their appetite as well as any weight that may have been lost while they were ill.
Make sure that your child is wearing lightweight clothing. If your child feels cold, give him or her warm liquids. If your child complains of being too hot, dress him or her lightly.
Fever is only one part of an illness and for children under eight years-old, fever is not a reliable sign to determine how sick they are. Infants and toddlers can be very ill without having a high temperature, while children three to eight years-old can be running around as they normally do with a very high fever. The important thing is to see how your child is acting, rather than what the thermometer says.