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Fever in Children

fever

Viral infections are the common cause. Viral infections cause many common illnesses such as colds, coughs, flu, diarrhea, etc. Sometimes viral infections cause more serious illnesses. Bacterial infections are less common than viral infections, but also cause fevers.

  • Make your child comfortable
  • You can give paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Take the clothes off the child if the room is normal room temperature.
  • Give lots to drink. This helps to prevent dehydration. You might find that a child is more willing to have a good drink if they are not so irritable.
  • Do not cold-sponge a child who has a fever. This used to be popular, but it is now not advised. This is because the blood vessels under the skin become narrower (constrict) if the water is too cold. This reduces heat loss, and can trap heat in deeper parts of the body.
  • Some people use a fan to cool a child. Again, this may not be a good idea if the fanned air is too cold. However, a gentle flow of air in a room which is room temperature may be helpful.

Look out for signs of dehydration

A fever caused by any illness may contribute to dehydration. The fever itself can cause more sweating, and some children who become irritable with a fever do not drink as much as they might need. In particular, dehydration can develop more quickly in a child who is vomiting or has a lot of diarrhoea. Encourage your child to have plenty to drink if they have a fever.

Look out for signs of serious illness

A child with a fever may look quite unwell. He or she may be flushed and irritable. However, most bouts of fever are not caused by serious illness, and the temperature often comes down quickly. It is quite common to see a child happily playing an hour or so later when their temperature has come down and they have had a good drink. They will not be entirely back to normal, but it is reassuring if a child improves with the drop in temperature. If a child has a serious infection they will usually get worse despite efforts to bring their temperature down. In addition, they may have other worrying symptoms. For example, breathing problems, drowsiness, convulsions, pains, or headaches which become worse.
Many children (and adults) who develop meningitis or septicemia have 'nonspecific' symptoms at first, such as just feeling or looking generally unwell. However, three symptoms that commonly develop early on - often before the more classic symptoms listed later - are:

  • Leg pains
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Pale or mottled skin.
  • Rash - may occur with meningitis or septicaemia

Other symptoms that may occur in babies with meningitis or septicaemia

  • Excessive crying
  • Fast breathing, or unusual patterns of breathing.
  • Will not take feeds
  • Being irritable
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • This is called a 'bulging fontanelle'.
  • Jerky movements may occur and the body may appear stiff. Sometimes the opposite occurs and the body appears floppy. Convulsions (fits) sometimes develop.

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