It may be hard to believe, but some of the things you learned about fever and children’s health simply aren’t true. Some never were. Others have given way to improved thinking on running a temperature and its relationship to the health of a child.
The best way to know your child’s temperature so you can make an informed decision about whether they’re sick or not is to check it quickly and accurately with an ear and forehead thermometer. These are better than old-fashioned mercury thermometers that take too long to give readings and can break in a child’s mouth.
Here are some myths about fever and your child’s health that need to be dispelled:
Myth: Anytime a child feels warm, it’s a fever that needs to be treated.
Fact: Children can feel warm because of crying, hot weather, being in a warm bed or exerting themselves. In these cases, the skin temperature should return to the way it normally feels within 10 to 20 minutes. You must take your child’s temperature orally, rectally, under the arm, in the ear or on the forehead with a digital thermometer to know for sure if they have fever.
Myth: Fever is always a bad thing.
Fact: Fever is part of a normal immune system working to fight off infection or other issues. When a fever is just slightly above 98.6 degrees F, it can be doing its job to make a child well. Still, you must closely monitor low fevers to make sure they don’t spike to a higher level. Your doctor may want you to bring the child in so the underlying cause of the fever can be determined and monitored.
Myth: Fever can cause brain damage.
Fact: Most fevers caused by infections can’t cause brain damage. But this myth is based on an important fact: When body temperature reaches 108 degrees F, it can cause damage to the brain and other body systems. But such high fevers are incredibly rare and are most often the result of a child being in a place that’s much too warm – like a closed-up car. Monitoring every fever with an easy-to-use ear and forehead thermometer takes only a second and can give you the peace of mind of knowing for sure that everything’s okay.
Myth: A high fever can cause a seizure.
Fact: This myth is also based in fact, but only a tiny fraction of children ever have a fever-related seizure, and these usually end quickly and don’t do any permanent damage. Obviously, you want to avoid fever situations that could lead to seizures, but a fever seizure may not be a reason to panic either. The best course of action, however, is to contact a medical professional and get your child evaluated for the underlying cause of fever long before the condition gets to this point.
Myth: Every fever needs to be treated with a fever-reducing medication.
Fact: Your doctor may tell you to treat every fever just to be on the safe side, but fevers may only require treatment if they cause pain or discomfort – and that doesn’t usually happen until your child’s temperature reaches 102 or 103 degrees F. At that level, the fever must be treated.
Myth: Once a fever breaks, there’s no longer any cause for concern.
Fact: Fever-reducing medicines and other factors can cause a child’s temperature return to normal. But it may go up again. Any child who has fever needs to be monitored to make sure it doesn’t return. If it does, additional treatment is required. Monitoring with an ear and forehead thermometer for a few days after an illness appears to be over is a wise precaution.
Doctors often use ear and forehead thermometers today because of their accuracy and their ability to provide quick readings. Children are often intolerant of old-style thermometers that take several seconds or up to a minute to give an accurate reading. Plus, ear and forehead thermometers are inexpensive to obtain for both doctors and parents.