Fever in children is often useful to combat invading pathogens. It does not need to be lowered unless the child is among them >It is a mistake to need to lower fever immediately. All fever in children occurs frequently, but is rarely a dangerous disease symptom.
Fever is basically not a disease, but an active reaction of the organism to invading pathogens to fight them and thus heal the body itself. However, as long as fever does not lead to noticeable symptoms in children, a higher temperature does not have to be lowered under all circumstances.
A rectal measurement should take at least five minutes, under the armpit or under the tongue at least ten minutes. Fever in children should ideally be measured with a digital thermometer.
How dangerous, how useful fever is
In recent decades, doctors, family doctors and paediatricians have increasingly come to appreciate the beneficial effect of fever in children in combating bacteria and viruses. Fever in children – but also in healthy adults – activates the body’s own immune forces, and fever is particularly effective against virus infections in children. This is because the multiplication of numerous viruses is significantly slowed at temperatures above 38.5 degrees Celsius. Since children are still susceptible to many viruses against which adults have long since developed immunity, the body very often uses fever as a defence against children.
No measures against fever in children as long as the general condition is good.
As long as children do not feel too ill and also otherwise make a good general impression, no temperature lowering measures against the fever with children must be introduced. Experts therefore recommend that no fever-reducing measures need to be taken for children who are awake despite high temperatures and eat and drink normally.
However, if the temperature rises above 38.5 degrees, a child’s general condition may soon deteriorate. Muscle and limb pain, loss of appetite and general discomfort may occur. As soon as the child appears to be suffering, immediate steps should be taken to reduce the fever.
Indications on thermometer not decisive
Fever in children does not cause illness, but the pathogen behind the infection or inflammation is to blame for the outbreak. It is therefore important to discover the cause of the fever. Fever in children is therefore an accompanying symptom of an incipient disease that needs to be treated.
Several studies have shown that fever is one of the body’s most important immune reactions. Furthermore, it could be proven that the growth of viruses but also of some bacteria is strongly inhibited by elevated temperature.
Fever in children as a useful reaction of the organism against invading pathogens is best when there is a fever between 39 and 40 degrees. The so-called phagocytes can optimally fight bacteria at a temperature of 39 degrees.
High fever in children in younger years more problem-free
Small children tolerate high temperatures better than teenagers or adults. Even high fever above 40 degrees often doesn’t matter. But once again, if the child suffers from the fever, is restless and cranky, refuses to drink or eat, cannot sleep, is confused or has already had a fever cramp, countermeasures should be taken.
The best way to measure fever in children
When using a mercury thermometer, fever in children should always be measured “rectally”, i.e. in the buttocks. This is especially true for smaller children. When measuring in the mouth, there is a risk of injury from biting the thermometer, in the armpit the measurement is too inaccurate. When measuring in the anus, the thermometer must be held and the child must not be left alone. The measurement should last at least five minutes rectally and ten minutes under the armpit or tongue.
Modern digital thermometers, which also do without the dangerous mercury, are faster. Electronic ear and forehead thermometers are also suitable. However, inaccuracies are possible (e.g. due to earwax).
Treating fever in children with medication
Suppositories are the ideal form of medication for small children in drug therapies because they do not have to swallow them. Suppositories usually contain the analgesic and antipyretic substance paracetamol. It is important to strictly follow the dosage instructions, because paracetamol can cause severe liver damage if overdosed.
Equivalent to paracetamol, fever in children can be treated with ibuprofen – the active ingredient is also suitable for the simultaneous alleviation of pain, and ibuprofen has also proven itself in the treatment of middle ear inflammation – otitis media.
Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, “aspirin”) should not be used in children under the age of twelve because of the very rare but dangerous risk of “Reye’s syndrome” (with the risk of severe liver and brain damage). Some paediatricians and adolescent doctors prescribe “Viburcol” suppositories. They contain active camomile ingredients and relieve the child of the annoying side effects of fever such as restlessness, headaches and insomnia.
Treat fever in children with home remedies
Children with fever need a lot of fluids to replace the water lost through sweating. As long as the child is shivering at the beginning of the fever, parents should warm it up – preferably with a blanket or a hot-water bottle. Cooling measures should only be taken when not only the face and forehead, but also the legs and the rest of the child’s body feel warm.
The “classic” home remedies for reducing fever include calf compresses, which do not have to be cold – a temperature difference of ten degrees is sufficient. If you use room warm water (22 degrees) or even water heated to 30 degrees, you will also avoid unnecessarily frightening your child.
When changing diapers, parents should always pack both calves separately. The towels should extend from the ankles to just below the knees. Change the compresses every five to 15 minutes until the fever has dropped by one to two degrees. Important restriction: Calf compresses only make sense if the legs and the rest of the body are warm. They should never be used on cold limbs.
Most children enjoy bathing, which is why they find a fever-reducing cooling bath pleasant. At the beginning, the temperature of the bath water is about two degrees Celsius above the body temperature. Then let cold water run in – so that the water temperature drops to around 30 degrees within ten minutes. The little patient should remain in the cooled water for about seven minutes. Many children also find it pleasant to wash the naked child with lukewarm or cool water.
Some naturopaths recommend lowering fever in children with chamomile enemas.