Myth: All fevers are bad for kids
Fact: Fevers are an important part of a healthy immune response to infections. Fevers are mostly safe in children, as long as the child remains well-hydrated and the fever remains in a therapeutic zone ( ideally, below 40 deg C)
Myth: My child feels hot to touch, so they must have a fever.
Fact: Taking your child’s temperature with a thermometer is the only reliable way to determine if they have a fever. A fever is generally considered to be an oral temperature above 38 degC in children. Of course, as the caregiver, you can look for other signs that your child is ill, but they might not have a fever.
Myth: Fevers ALWAYS have to be treated with children’s acetaminophen, ibuprofen or other medications.
Fact: Medication can be helpful with high fevers (>40C), rapidly rising fevers, and when kids have a history of febrile seizures. Fevers of any temperature in infants aged less than 6 months have to be investigated with urgent medical care. Other fevers do not need to be treated with medication.
Myth: Kids need to eat even if they have a fever.
Fact: It’s perfectly okay if your child doesn’t eat anything while they have a fever. Just make sure that they are drinking throughout. Dehydration is a common cause of problems with fevers.
Myth: There’s nothing other than children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce a fever.
Fact: There are several natural options to manage a healthy fever. For instance, a sponge bath with warm (not steaming hot) water is an effective way to manage a fever. Herbal teas like ginger, yarrow, peppermint, elderberry and elderflower are useful allies in managing fevers. Of course, treating the underlying infection is equally important.
Myth: Fevers will always rise if not treated
Fact: The body has feedback loops to determine the right body temperature for the situation (except for infants, that’s why you always consult a doctor right away in these cases). Most fevers don’t go above 40C, and if they do for an hour or so, they tend to be safe.
Myth: Febrile seizures are common, cause permanent brain damage and lead to epilepsy.
Fact: Febrile seizures happen in approximately 4% of children with fevers. These seizures are extremely scary to witness, but do not typically cause any brain damage or lead to chronic conditions like epilepsy. Once a child has a febrile seizure, though, they are more susceptible to future febrile seizures.
Myth: How high the numbers get is the most important consideration with a fever
Fact: While you do want to monitor how high a fever gets, it is more important to check on how your child is acting; are they unusually lethargic/cannot be roused from sleep; are they struggling for breath; are they crying in a loud, high-pitched manner?. In these cases, take your child to urgent care.
Myth: Once a fever ‘breaks’, it should not return.
Fact: With most infections, fevers happen over a period of 3-4 days. Your chosen treatment may suppress the fever, but the underlying infection may cause it to return. Don’t despair if the fever comes back, just keep treating it. If a fever lasts longer than 5 days or so, it is advisable to see a healthcare provider to determine the reason for the persistent fever. In most cases, there is an infection that needs to be treated.
Dr. Caroline Meyer, N.D.