Fever comes hand in hand with sickness and little ones can quickly feel hot and bothered – but there are simple and effective ways to keep your child comfortable when fever strikes
There are plenty of myths surrounding fevers and how to help your child feel better when their temperature is high, but understanding the cause of the fever is the first and most important step. It can be worrying when a child’s temperature is higher than usual as both you and they often don’t immediately know what’s wrong. Understanding what steps to take, when to seek a doctor’s opinion and ways you can help them feel comfortable will all aid in them feeling better in no time.
Understanding Body Temperature
A child aged between 0-3 months will have a normal day to day oral temperature up to 37.4°C and in children aged 3+ months this will be up to 37.6°C. Our internal body temperatures however, are delicate and even a small fluctuation can indicate something is not right. Clinical research shows the definition of a fever changes with the child’s age, with anything over 37.4 °C classed as a fever in babies 0-3 months. For a child between 3 and 36 months a moderate temperature ranges from 37.6°C to 38.5°C and anything above 38.5°C is a high temperature. For children aged 36+ months a moderate temperature occurs between 37.8°C and 39.4°C, with anything above this being a high temperature. This is why it’s important to understand what your child’s ‘normal’ body temperature is. Every child is different and knowing what’s usual for them will allow you to quickly and easily notice when it’s high.
Knowing and understanding your family member’s usual temperature readings can become a quick and simple part of your routine. Thermometers are increasingly advanced offering Age Precision® technology for easily interpretable results specific to your child’s age and no touch technology meaning you can check their temperature without disturbing their sleep. Recognising what’s normal for your individual child and quickly spotting when something’s not quite right will help you to find treatment quicker.
Understand your child’s fever with Braun ThermoScan® 7
So what actually is a fever?
Fever is the body’s natural response to fighting infection. Scientific studies have found that there’s a twofold reason our bodies respond in this way. Firstly, and perhaps the best known purpose that we develop a fever, is that an increased body temperature helps the immune system work more effectively. Studies have shown that our infection fighting white blood cells are stimulated and there is an increased production of antibodies when our temperature is higher. This is our body’s immediate and highly effective way of fighting infection.
The second purpose for a fever is that elevated heat levels within the body have been found to slow down, and in some cases stop, the growth and reproduction of some kinds of bacteria that can’t function in warmer environments. When combined, the body warming and a fever ensuing can be an effective way to fight infection fast.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple explanation as to what external factor causes a fever, it can be a symptom of a multitude of illnesses. A fever is brought about as our immune systems flood our bodies with a substance that affects the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls temperature. The most common causes in children are upper respiratory tract infections, flu and ear infections. As the body fights these infections a fever will quickly set in, leaving your little one feeling groggy, tired and bothered. As these substances take affect and our hypothalamus becomes activated, our temperature starts to rise.
The dilemma lies, as to at what point the fever should be treated. It is the body’s natural response and while your little one will feel uncomfortable for a short while, the fever is actually helping their body fight the infection. While it may be upsetting to see your child hot and bothered, it is actually their body doing what it needs to in order for them feel well again. General advice recommends that unless the child is obviously distressed it’s best to avoid reducing their temperature with antipyretics. That said, it is important to know the symptoms to watch that can accompany a fever. If the child at any point has a headache, muscular pain or becomes unresponsive it is important to see a doctor immediately.
While your child’s body responds to this increased temperature as it fights the infection it is important they remain hydrated. Once the fever takes hold, they will be losing fluids quickly through sweat and these will need to be replaced. Either water, hydration fluids or milk will suffice and if you’re struggling to get them to drink, try offering their drink with a straw or in a special cup to make it more interesting and engaging for them.
Alongside this you should encourage your child rest, allowing their body to get well again. Knowing some effective and easy ways to help cool them down and feel more comfortable will help them relax, recuperate and get back to their usual selves. Take a look at this blog post for tips on how to keep your little one comfortable when they’re feeling ill.
And don’t forget to try and avoid the spread of the illness to yourself or other family members. Regularly disinfect surfaces and door handles, keep the room at a humidity level between 40%-70% and keep your family’s immune system fighting fit with a healthy, nutrient rich diet – looking after you can be as important as looking after them!
Remember, if you are at all worried, don’t hesitate to seek expert medical advice. Contact your GP or health visitor urgently if your child:
- Is under three months old and has an oral temperature of 37.4°C or above;
- Is between three and six months old and has an oral temperature of 38.5°C or above;
- If your child has other signs of being unwell, such as persistent vomiting, refusal to feed, floppiness or drowsiness