Fever: Is it really a common part of childhood?

Fevers… I really dread them especially on my child. For you see, Bubba is rather prone to fevers. When she was younger, she used to get fevers so often that we were visiting the paed every month. I had to take time off from work to care for her that I actually felt bad that she was falling sick so often. Some of those days, I actually cried and wondered did I eat anything ‘wrong’ during my pregnancy to birth a child whose immunity was low. No one blamed me for she could have picked up the germs from anywhere but I felt bad as her mother.

Other than the horrible time that she was hospitalised for fever fits, we basically took most of her fevers with a pinch of salt. “It’s all part of growing up and part of building her immunity.”, my sister reassured me.  I guess that part is true but yet, it is really heartbreaking when you see your child crying out for you and soothing her simply because she’s not well. But to be fair, despite her fevers being high, she’s usually active and alert for a good period of the day, so that wasn’t much of a concern to us. The only time alarm bells started ringing was when she was listless, lethargic and basically irresponsive to us when we called for her to play. That’s when we knew, we should send her down to the doctor immediately. 😦

Decided to do a little more research about fevers in toddlers (I know, Google is probably the worse source for the information and the worse kind of doctor, but on the flip side of the coin, as a parent, you know your child best so take the advice you can but really, make your own judgement call), and here’s what I found which I thought might put some first-time/ young parents at ease:

Why do kids get fever?
Fever happens when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above its normal level. This thermostat is found in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus knows what temperature your body should be (usually around 37°C) and will send messages to your body to keep it that way.

Most people’s body temperatures even change a little bit during the course of the day: It’s usually a little lower in the morning and a little higher in the evening and can vary as kids run around, play, and exercise.

Sometimes, though, the hypothalamus will “reset” the body to a higher temperature in response to an infection, illness, or some other cause. Why? Researchers believe turning up the heat is the body’s way of fighting the germs that cause infections and making the body a less comfortable place for them.

Our paed thinks that the reason why the Bub’s fevers are usually ranging from 39-40 degrees is because it’s her body’s natural way of fighting off the infections. Perhaps that much is true as we also realised that once she’s done with her fevers, the flus/ coughs as a residual effect from the fever are usually not as prolonged as some of our friends’ kids. I guess chicken-and-egg situation, depending on how you look at it.

Causes for fever:
It’s important to remember that fever by itself is not an illness — it’s usually a symptom of another problem and fevers have a few potential causes such as:

  1. Infection: Most fevers are caused by infection or other illness. A fever helps the body fight infections by stimulating natural defense mechanisms.
  2. Overdressing: Infants, especially newborns, may get fevers if they’re overbundled or in a hot environment because they don’t regulate their body temperature as well as older kids. However, because fevers in newborns can indicate a serious infection, even infants who are overdressed must be checked by a doctor if they have a fever.
  3. Immunizations: Babies and kids sometimes get a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated.
  4. Teething: Although teething may cause a slight rise in body temperature, it’s probably not the cause if a child’s temperature is higher than 37.8°C.

When do you start panicking?
To be honest, I start panicking when the Bub’s temperature is anything more than 37.3 degrees. But that’s me and thankfully, the Man will give me a earful when he checks her temp and dismisses my judgement. However, perhaps due to mother’s instinct, I’m also exceptionally sensitive when Bubba’s temperature becomes a little higher so when I do wake the Man up in the middle of the night exclaiming that she’s having a fever, it usually is true.

Some of our friends who have lived overseas would call us alarmists and we do bring Bub to see our paed pretty often. They’ve shared that in the country when they live, the doctors would typically advise them to let the child run the course of the fever without any medication (or using natural methods to treat the fever).

There’s one important exception to this rule: If you have an infant 3 months or younger with a temperature of 38°C or higher, do see the doctor urgently as a slight fever can be a sign of a potentially serious infection in very young infants.

Do take into account the behaviour of your child when he/she is sick as it will give you a pretty good idea of whether a minor illness is the cause or if your child should be seen by a doctor. The illness is probably not serious if your child:

  • is still interested in playing
  • is eating and drinking well
  • is alert and smiling at you
  • has a normal skin color
  • looks well when his or her temperature comes down

And of course, we used to worry about whether she’s getting enough food into her system when she’s sick but with time we realised that we shouldn’t  worry too much about that. She will make it up for the intake of food that she’s lost over the days when she’s better. But it’s important to make sure that your child gets enough liquids so as not to be dehydrated. Wet diapers are always a good sign.

(Source of information: Kids Health)

We are on to Day 6 of the Bub’s fever episode and seriously, all at home are worn out and all praying very hard for her to get well soon. One day more.. she will get better…

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