What's worth worrying about when it comes to fevers.
By the preschool years, kids have usually traded so many bugs back and forth that parents are quite familiar with childhood fevers.
“My younger son, James, is three years old and I find he gets fevers quickly — pretty much with every cold,” says his mom, Brenna Dubé. “Unless he is cranky or clingy, I don’t treat a low or medium temperature with medicine. I believe that fevers are the body’s way of attacking bacteria and viruses. However, if the fever is high or it’s affecting his behaviour, then we will give medicine.”
Dubé has the right idea, says Mark Feldman, chief of paediatrics at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. “There is no need to be overly anxious about fever. We deal with fever phobias all the time. Generally speaking, the fever itself is not a concern. It’s the cause of the fever that needs to be determined.”
The “vast majority” of fevers in children, says Feldman, are caused by viruses and clear up on their own. Moreover, the degree of fever does not necessarily correlate with the severity of the illness: “A child with a mild infection can have a high fever, while a child with a severe infection may have no fever at all.”
If a temperature is not really bothering a child, there is no need to try to bring it down, says Feldman. But often “a fever makes kids uncomfortable. They feel sick, achy and don’t eat. So in my opinion, it is worthwhile to treat a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help the child be more comfortable.” Never give aspirin-based medication (acetylsalicylic acid or ASA) to children or teens, and make sure to follow the dosing instructions on the label carefully to avoid accidental overdose.