California seems to have avoided the flu epidemic that was supposedly heading our way from the east coast. However, it is still cold and flu season and I have received many calls about children with fevers. Remember, if a child is over 2 months of age and is not lethargic or having other symptoms a fever is the body’s way of fighting infection. If your child is under 2 months of age you should call your doctor urgently. A fever can be of concern if your child is not responsive, appears to be in pain or the fever persists for several days. Whenever you are unsure about the dangers or treatment of fevers it is always best to call your doctor.
Yours In Health,
Myths & Facts about Fevers
MYTH: My child feels warm, so she has a fever.
FACT: Children can feel warm for a many reasons such as playing hard, crying, getting
out of a warm bed or being outside on a hot day. They are “giving off heat”. Their
skin temperature should return to normal in 10 to 20 minutes. Once these causes
are excluded, about 80% of children who feel warm and act sick actually have a
fever. If you want to be sure, take their temperature. The following are the cutoffs
for fever using different types of thermometers:
* Rectal, ear or temporal artery thermometers: 100.4° F (38.0° C) or higher
* Oral or pacifier thermometers: 100° F (37.8° C) or higher
* Axillary (armpit) temperatures: 99° F (37.2° C) or higher
MYTH: All fevers are bad for children.
FACT: Fevers turn on the body’s immune system. Fevers are one of the body’s protective
mechanisms. Normal fevers between 100° and 104° F (37.8° – 40° C) are usually good
for sick children and help the body fight infection.
MYTH: Fevers cause brain damage or fevers above 104° F (40° C) are dangerous.
FACT: Fevers with infections don’t cause brain damage. Only body temperatures above
108° F (42° C) can cause brain damage. the body temperature climbs this high only
with extreme environmental temperatures (for example, if a child is confined to
a closed car in hot weather).
MYTH: Anyone can have a febrile seizure (seizure triggered by fever).
FACT: Only 4% of children can have a febrile seizure.
MYTH: Febrile seizures are harmful.
FACT: Febrile seizures are scary to watch, but they usually stop within 5 minutes.
They cause no permanent harm. Children who have had febrile seizures do not have
a greater risk for developmental delays, learning disabilities, or seizures without
MYTH: All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine.
FACT: Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort. Usually fevers don’t
cause any discomfort until they go above 102° or 103° F (39° or 39.5° C).
MYTH: Without treatment, fevers will keep going higher.
FACT: Wrong. Because the brain has a thermostat, fevers from infection usually
top out at 103° or 104° F (39.5°- 40° C). They rarely go to 105° or 106° F (40.6°
or 41.1° C). While the latter are “high” fevers, they are harmless ones.
MYTH:With treatment, fevers should come down to normal.
FACT: With treatment, fevers usually come down 2° or 3° F (1° or 1.5° C).
MYTH: If the fever doesn’t come down (if you can’t “break the fever”), the cause
FACT: Fevers that don’t respond to fever medicine can be caused by viruses or
bacteria. It doesn’t relate to the seriousness of the infection.
MYTH:If I can “break the fever”, the infection will go away.
FACT: The fever will normally last for 2 or 3 days until the body turns off the
virus’s attack and gets the upper hand. This process cannot be hurried. The source
of this misconception is that during an infection, when the fever goes away, the
child is usually on the road to recovery. It’s magical thinking, however, to assume
that making the fever go away earlier (which is impossible), will make the infection
go away earlier too.
MYTH: If the fever is high, the cause is serious.
FACT: If the fever is high, the cause may or may not be serious. If your child
looks very sick, the cause is more likely to be serious.
MYTH:The exact number of the temperature is very important.
FACT: How your child looks is what’s important, not the exact temperature.
MYTH: Oral temperatures between 98.7° and 100° F (37.1° to 37.8° C) are low-grade
FACT: Wrong, these temperatures are normal variations. The body’s temperature
normally changes throughout the day. It peaks in the late afternoon and evening.
An actual low-grade fever is 100° F to 102° F (37.8° – 39° C) .
SUMMARY: Remember that fever is fighting off your child’s infection. Fever is one
of the good guys.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical
advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility
for how you choose to use this information.